New England Small College Athletic Conference

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New England Small College Athletic Conference
New England Small College Athletic Conference logo
Established 1971
Association NCAA
Division Division III
Members 11
Sports fielded 26 (men's: 13; women's: 13)
Region New England
Headquarters Hadley, Massachusetts
Commissioner Andrea Savage (since 1999)
New England Small College Athletic Conference locations

The New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) is an NCAA Division III athletic conference, consisting of eleven highly selective liberal arts colleges and universities located in New England and New York. Often referred to as the "Little Ivies", most of the schools have competed against one another since the 19th century.

The idea for such an athletic conference originated with an agreement among Amherst College, Bowdoin College, Wesleyan University and Williams College drafted in 1955.[1] In 1971, Bates College, Colby College, Hamilton College, Middlebury College, Trinity College, Tufts University and Union College joined on and NESCAC was officially formed. Today's sustaining members include all the original members but Union, which withdrew in 1977[2] and was replaced by Connecticut College in 1982.


NESCAC schools share a similar philosophy for intercollegiate athletics. The Conference was created out of a concern for the direction of intercollegiate athletic programs and remains committed to keeping a proper perspective on the role of sport in higher education. Member institutions believe athletic teams should be representative of school's entire student bodies and hew to NCAA Division III admissions and financial policies prohibiting athletic scholarships while awarding financial aid solely on the basis of need.[1] Due to the prestigious reputations of its member schools, the NESCAC is able to attract many of the most athletically and intellectually gifted student-athletes in the country.

NESCAC members stress that intercollegiate athletic programs should operate in harmony with the educational mission of each institution. Schools are committed to maintaining common boundaries to keep athletics strong yet in proportion to their overall academic mission. Presidents of each NESCAC institution control intercollegiate athletic policy.

Conference tenets are usually more restrictive than those of the NCAA Division III regarding season length, number of contests and post-season competition.

The schools are all well-regarded academically. The numbers in the table below represent the rank of the institution in the U.S. News & World Report list of "National Liberal Arts Colleges". It should be noted, however, that Tufts' rank represents its standing among the USNWR "National Universities" list.

Institution USNWR Category USNWR Rank Class of 2019 Acceptance Rate[3][4]
Amherst College Liberal Arts 2 13.7%
Bates College Liberal Arts 25 21.4%
Bowdoin College Liberal Arts 4 14.9%
Colby College Liberal Arts 19 22.5%
Connecticut College Liberal Arts 48 40.0%
Hamilton College Liberal Arts 14 23.9%
Middlebury College Liberal Arts 4 19.9%
Trinity College Liberal Arts 43 27.0%
Tufts University University 27* 15.8%
Wesleyan University Liberal Arts 14 21.9%
Williams College Liberal Arts 1 16.8%
  • This number represents the standing of Tufts among 'national universities' as defined by USNWR.

Member schools[edit]

Current members[edit]

The league currently has 11 full members:

Institution Location Nickname Founded Founding Religious Affiliation Enrollment Joined
Amherst College Amherst, Massachusetts 1821 Congregationalist 1,817 1971
Bates College Lewiston, Maine Bobcats 1855 Free Will Baptist 1,773 1971
Bowdoin College Brunswick, Maine Polar Bears 1794 Congregationalist 1,777 1971
Colby College Waterville, Maine White Mules 1813 Northern Baptist 1,838 1971
Connecticut College New London, Connecticut Camels 1911 Methodist 1,911 1982
Hamilton College Clinton, New York Continentals 1793 Presbyterian 1,864 1971
Middlebury College Middlebury, Vermont Panthers 1800 Congregationalist 2,507 1971
Trinity College Hartford, Connecticut Bantams 1823 Episcopalian 2,344 1971
Tufts University Medford, Massachusetts Jumbos 1852 Universalist 5,138 1971
Wesleyan University Middletown, Connecticut Cardinals 1831 Methodist 2,870 1971
Williams College Williamstown, Massachusetts Ephs 1793 Congregationalist 2,124 1971

Former members[edit]

Institution Location Nickname Founded Founding
Enrollment Joined Left Current
Union College Schenectady, New York Dutchmen (men's)
Dutchwomen (women's)
1795 Dutch Reformed 2,220 1971 1977 Liberty

Membership timeline[edit]

Connecticut College Williams College Wesleyan University Union College Tufts University Trinity College (Connecticut) Middlebury College Hamilton College (New York) Colby College Bowdoin College Bates College Amherst College

Conference championships[edit]

The NESCAC holds conference championships in the following sports:

Conference sports
Sport Men's Women's
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
Cross Country
Green tickY
Green tickY
Field hockey
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
Ice hockey
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
Swimming & Diving
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY
Track and field
Green tickY
Green tickY
Green tickY

Football Scheduling[edit]

Due to the fact that there are 10 football-playing schools in the NESCAC, but only 8 regular season games, NESCAC football teams rotate their opening opponents on a two-year cycle.[5]

School Opponent (Even Years) Opponent (Odd Years)
Amherst Bates Hamilton
Bates Amherst Trinity
Bowdoin Williams Middlebury
Colby Trinity Williams
Hamilton Tufts Amherst
Middlebury Wesleyan Bowdoin
Trinity Colby Bates
Tufts Hamilton Wesleyan
Wesleyan Middlebury Tufts
Williams Bowdoin Colby

NESCAC schools always end the year against the same opponent, typically their biggest rival. These five matchups (listed with the home team in odd years first) are: Hamilton-Bates, Tufts-Middlebury [1], Trinity-Wesleyan [2] Bowdoin-Colby [3], and Williams-Amherst.

NCAA Division III competition[edit]

Four NESCAC institutions are among the 39 that founded the NCAA in 1905: Amherst, Tufts, Wesleyan, and Williams.[6]

Prior to 1993 NESCAC generally did not allow member schools to send teams to NCAA championships. Since then all sports except football have had this freedom, many excelling in the NCAA Division III championships. The NACDA Directors' Cup, awarded since 1996 to the college or university in each NCAA Division that wins the most college championships, has been claimed at the Division III level by a NESCAC institution every year except 1998. In the 2012–13 season, four of the top ten NACDA Director's Cup institutions were from NESCAC: Williams (1), Middlebury (3), Amherst (6), and Tufts (8).[7]

In addition to the ban on post-season play, the NESCAC football league is notable for member teams playing conference games only. While some Division II and Division III teams play only conference schedules, NESCAC is unique in all of its members playing only conference games.

Middlebury leads NESCAC in total National Championship teams, winning 32 titles since the conference lifted its ban on NCAA play. Williams is second with 25 NCAA championships, Tufts next at 21.[8]

Conference venues[edit]

School Football Basketball
Stadium Capacity Arena Capacity
Amherst Pratt Field 8,000 LeFrak Gymnasium 2,450
Bates Garcelon Field 3,000 Alumni Gymnasium 750
Bowdoin Whittier Field 9,000 Morrell Gymnasium 2,000
Colby Harold Alfond Stadium 5,000 Wadsworth Gymnasium 2,500
Connecticut Non-football school N/A Luce Fieldhouse 800
Hamilton Steuben Field 2,500 Margaret Bundy Scott Field House 2,500
Middlebury Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium 3,500 Pepin Gymnasium 1,200
Trinity Jessee/Miller Field 6,500 Oosting Gym 2,000
Tufts Ellis Oval 6,000 Cousens Gym 1,000
Wesleyan Andrus Field 5,000 Silloway Gymnasium 1,200
Williams Weston Field 10,000 Chandler Gymnasium 2,900

Athletic spending[edit]

The U. S. Department of Education publishes statistics on athletic spending by colleges.[9] In 2013–14, athletic spending by NESCAC schools was as follows (note: there are 421 schools in Division III):

School Athletic Spending Amount per (Unduplicated) Athlete # (Unduplicated) Varsity Athletes Div III rank Amount per Undergraduate student
Amherst $5,822,492 $10,324 564 41 $3,262
Bates $5,181,170 $7,631 679 15 $3,293
Bowdoin $5,905,648 $9,072 651 18 $3,303
Colby $5,149,582 $8,110 635 19 $2,829
Connecticut $3,756,307 $7,322 513 66 $2,006
Hamilton $4,869,188 $8,618 565 38 $2,557
Middlebury $5,235,614 $7,588 690 13 $2,132
Trinity $5,885,489 $8,945 658 16 $2,752
Tufts $4,342,883 $5,752 755 4 $849
Wesleyan $5,379,896 $9,134 589 24 $1,863
Williams $7,276,419 $9,780 744 5 $3,548

Nine (out of eleven) NESCAC schools rank in the top 25 of Division III for total athletic spending. With the exception of Connecticut College, all NESCAC schools rank in the top 10% of Division III for # of varsity athletes. Connecticut College athletic spending and # of varsity athletes are lowest because it does not have a football team. Tufts per-student athletic spending is low because it has nearly double the undergraduate population (5,100) of its nearest NESCAC rival (Wesleyan, with 2,800), and it has not emphasized athletic spending.

Related athletic divisions, conferences and rivalries[edit]

In certain sports, NESCAC teams play primarily within either an East or West Division. East Division teams consist of Bates, Bowdoin, Colby, Trinity and Tufts; West Division teams consist of Amherst, Hamilton, Middlebury, Wesleyan and Williams. Amherst, Wesleyan and Williams are also the members of the unofficial Little Three conference. Bates, Bowdoin and Colby are also the participants in the CBB rivalry. Hamilton and Middlebury contest the Old Rocking Chair annually in football.


Notable alumni[edit]


NESCAC schools currently count four Major League Baseball general managers among their collective alumni.




  1. ^ a b "NESCAC". 
  2. ^, retrieved October 1, 2008. "[I]n March 1977, a letter from the president of Williams College brought to light evidence that, a year earlier, Harkness had violated the NESCAC recruiting rules and then lied about the matter when confronted by President Bonner. Bonner immediately suspended Harkness, and offered his own resignation to the Board of Trustees at its April meeting. The trustees reinstated Harkness, refused to accept the president's resignation—reappointing him for one year—and voted to terminate Union's membership in NESCAC."
  3. ^ Nick Anderson (April 1, 2015). "Class of 2019 admit rates: From selective to ultra-ultra-selective". Washington Post. 
  4. ^ "Admission Statistics - College Acceptance Rates - College Fun Facts - Admission Rates". 
  5. ^ "Jumbos Welcome Wesleyan to Ellis Oval/Zimman Field on Saturday for 2012 Football Opener". Tufts. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "NESCAC". 
  9. ^ "Equity in Athletics Data Analysis Cutting Tool Website". 

External links[edit]