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 (except New Hampshire) and New York State
Headquarters Hadley, Massachusetts
Commissioner Andrea Savage (since 1999)
New England Small College Athletic Conference locations

The New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) is a collegiate athletic conference comprising sports teams from eleven private liberal arts colleges in the Northeastern United States, informally known as the Little Ivies. The conference name is also commonly used to refer to those eleven schools as a group. The eleven institutions are Amherst College, Bates College, Bowdoin College, Colby College, Connecticut College, Hamilton College, Middlebury College, Tufts University, Trinity College, Wesleyan University, and Williams College.[1]

Many of the schools draw parallels to the academic caliber of schools in the Ivy League. The conference originated with an agreement among Amherst, Bowdoin, Wesleyan and Williams in 1955.[2] In 1971, Bates, Colby, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity, Tufts, and Union College joined on and the NESCAC was officially formed. Union withdrew in 1977,[3] and was replaced by Connecticut College in 1982. The members are grouped within the NCAA Division III athletic conference. Members also belong to various consortia such as the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Consortium and the Little Three. All of the members have been grouped as Little Ivies or Hidden Ivies, and have competed against one another since the 19th century.

Many of the NESCAC schools are generally viewed as some of the most socially prestigious colleges in the nation, and are ranked among the best universities in the country.[4] The term NESCAC has connotations of academic excellence and selectivity in admissions.

All eleven universities place in the top 15% of the 2016 U.S. News & World Report, and Forbes university rankings.[5][6] U.S. News has named a member of the conference in the top ten of the best liberal arts college in the country since its conception, naming Williams College number one in 2016.

Members of the conference have the largest financial endowment of any liberal arts college in the world, with William's endowment of 2.3 billion and undergraduate enrollment ranges from about 1,792 to 5,200, with Bates as the smallest, and Tufts as the biggest, respectively.[7] Each of the schools compete for national titles in the athletic conference in respective sports.[8]


Colleges in the New England Small College Athletic Conference have some of the largest liberal arts financial endowments in the world, which allows the colleges to provide many resources for their academic programs and research endeavors. As of 2016, Williams College has an endowment of $2.3 billion.[9] Additionally, each college receives millions of dollars in research grants and other subsidies from federal and state government.

Location Institution Athletic Nickname Enrollment Colors Founding
 Massachusetts Amherst College 1,817           1821
 Maine Bates College Bobcats 1,792           1855
 Maine Bowdoin College Polar Bears 1,805           1794
 Maine Colby College White Mules 1,838           1813
 Connecticut Connecticut College Camels 1,911           1911
 New York Hamilton College Continentals 1,864           1793
 Vermont Middlebury College Panthers 2,507           1800
 Connecticut Trinity College Bantams 2,344           1823
 Massachusetts Tufts University Jumbos 5,138           1852
 Connecticut Wesleyan University Cardinals 2,870           1831
 Massachusetts Williams College Ephs 2,124           1793

Note: Union College joined the NESCAC in 1971, but left in 1977, and was replaced by Connecticut College in 1982.

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



The 1901 Williams football team

Williams began its inaugural football season in 1881 and its rivalry with Amherst College is one of the longest at any level of college football.[10] Bates and Bowdoin have competed against each other athletically since the 1870s and subsequently share one of the ten oldest NCAA Division III football rivalries, in the United States, there is a long history of athletic competition between the two colleges and Colby.[11][12] Colby began its now most notable hockey rivalry, with Bowdoin in 1922.[13]

In 1899, Amherst, Wesleyan and Williams schools first began to compete together as the "Triangular League". Since then they have continued to play each other in most sports on a regular basis.[14][15][16][17]

History of the athletic league[edit]

The conference originated with an agreement among Amherst, Bowdoin, Wesleyan and Williams in 1955.[2] In 1971, Bates, Colby, Hamilton, Middlebury, Trinity, Tufts, and Union College joined on and the NESCAC was officially formed. Union withdrew in 1977,[3] and was replaced by Connecticut College in 1982. The 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. 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. 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.[2]

Little Ivies[edit]

See also: Little Ivies
Amherst College's Sabrina Staue, commemorating academic excellence
Bates College's 1932 Ivy Class Memorial Stone Work

Many colleges on the American Northeast participate in "planting the ivy," a custom started in the early 1800s.[18] As Ivy naturally grows in the climate provided by the Northeast, schools in the New England Small College Athletic Conference incorporate the Ivy plant in their traditions and social gatherings.[19][20] Schools in the athletic conference often participate in an Ivy Day in which an Ivy Stone is placed on the sides of academic buildings to commemorate student achievement.[19]

The usage of the term "Little Ivies" or singular a "Little Ivy" first started being used to compare schools on the east coast that provided the student with an Ivy League caliber education in 1955.

When denouncing and decrying the over-competitiveness and social snobbery of these schools, President of Swarthmore College, stated in The New York Times:

Bowdoin College's Honorary Class of 1875 Gate
Williams College's Haystack Monument

"We not only have the Ivy League, and pretty clearly understood though seldom mentioned gradations within the Ivy League, but we have the Little Ivy League, and the jockeying for position within that."[21]

The schools within the NESCAC, are often referred to as the "Little Ivies", or singularly referred to as a "Little Ivy." Schools within specific consortia of usually three are commonly referred to as "Little Three" alluding to the "Big Three" of the Ivy League. Amherst, Williams and Wesleyan compete in a football game that has drawn numerous comparisons to the Big Game of the Ivy League, sometimes referred to "The Biggiest Little Game." Bates, Bowdion, and Colby are often referred to as the Little Three of Maine, and participate in the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Consortium, which has also drawn comparisons to the rivalry between Harvard, Yale and Princeton.[14][15] The schools within the NESCAC have also been referred to as "New Ivies" and Hidden Ivies for their gradual ascension in rankings and selectivity in admissions.[22][23] Member schools have gone on to surpass their Ivy League counterparts in national and regional rankings, with Williams College being named the best liberal arts college in the United States in the 2016 Forbes ranking.[24]

School rivalries[edit]

Many of the schools in the New England Small College Athletic Conference participate in inter-school rivalries.

Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Consortium[edit]

Bates and Bowdoin have competed against each other athletically since the 1870s and subsequently share one of the ten oldest NCAA Division III football rivalries, in the United States. In the 1940s, Colby began competing and subsequently went on to form the consortium in the 1960s, after the University of Maine moved to Division I athletics. The official athletic competition started in the 1965, when Colby joined Bates and Bowdoin in their more structured football games and created the Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Consortium (CBB).[25] As an aside, the three Maine schools cooperate in other ways, having joined together to form Maine Public Broadcasting and its flagship station, WCBB-TV.

Little Three[edit]

Amherst, Wesleyan and Williams have also competed with each other since their inception and have gone on to unofficially create an athletic conference, the "Little Three". Although meant to draw the parallel between the Big Three of the Ivy League, there is no connection between the established athletic conference with Amherst, Wesleyan, and Williams.[14][15][16][17]

Student life[edit]


Racial and ethnic background (2015-2016)
Institution Asian African American Hispanic Caucasian International Unknown Cite
Amherst College 14.4% 13.7% 14.5% 46.4% 9.6% 5.6% [26]
Bates College 4.6% 4.7% 6.7% 71.8% 6.8% 0.8% [27]
Bowdoin College 6.7% 5.2% 13.4% 67.1% 5.2% 0.6% [28]
Colby College 6.2% 3.4% 6.8% 67.2% 10.6% 10.2% [29]
Connecticut College 3.7% 3.5% 9.1% 75.8% 5.4% 5% [30]
Hamilton College 7.7% 4.1% 8.2% 67.4% 4.7% 9.6% [31]
Middlebury College 7.5% 3.2% 9.8% 72.2% 10.7% 1.7% [32]
Trinity College 4.7% 6.5% 7.7% 71.8% 9.5% 5.8% [33]
Tufts University 11.9% 4.4% 7.3% 62.1% 8.1% 9.4% [34]
Wesleyan University 9.5% 7.7% 10.7% 58.2% 8.7% 7.4% [35]
Williams College 11.8% 7.6% 13% 59.8% 7% 0% [36]

Geographic distribution[edit]

Most applicants to schools in the NESCAC come from the Northeast, largely from the New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia areas. As all NESCAC schools are located on the East Coast, and all but one are in New England, most graduates end up working and residing in the Northeast after graduation.[37]

Academics and financial aid[edit]

Many schools in the New England Small College Athletic Conference are known for low grade inflation and rigorous academic standards. The practice was often contrasted with the Ivy League schools with respect to uncovered grade inflation. Some members have received limited media coverage over perceived grade inflation.[38][39][40] The colleges are known for a range of high and relatively low tuition rates and compressive fees, some of the colleges have been named the most expensive in the United States.[41]

Academics and Financial Aid
Institution Average College GPA Cost of Attendance
Amherst College 3.488 $60,400 (annual) $241,600 (total four years)
Bates College 3.334 $66,550 (annual) $266,200 (total four years)
Bowdoin College 3.430 $63,400 (annual) $253,600 (total four years)
Colby College 3.450 $61,730 (annual) $246,920 (total from years)
Connecticut College 3.630 $62,965 (annual) $251,860 (total four years)
Hamilton College 3.639 $64,250 (annual) $257,000 (total four years)
Middlebury College 3.505 $61,046 (annual) $244,184 (total four years)
Trinity College 3.685 $62,756 (annual) $251,024 (total four years)
Tufts University 3.501 $62,077 (annual) $248,308 (total four years)
Wesleyan University 3.555 $62,478 (annual) $249,912 (total four years)
Williams College 3.344 $61,870 (annual) $247,480 (total four years)


Fashion and lifestyle[edit]

Preppy styles are often associated with the NESCAC and its culture.[12] The athletic conference is often associated with the upper class White Anglo-Saxon Protestant community of the Northeast, Old Money, or more generally, the American upper middle and upper classes.[42] However, all schools have made institutional efforts to diversify student body, and attract and wide range of students to their institutions. Many schools in the NESCAC provide significant financial aid to help increase the enrollment of lower income and middle class students.[43][44]

Later US president Calvin Coolidge in his time as a college student at Amherst College.

Some typical preppy styles also reflect traditional upper class New England leisure activities, such as equestrian, sailing or yachting, hunting, fencing, rowing, lacrosse, tennis, squash, golf, and rugby. Longtime New England and Canadian outdoor outfitters, such as L.L. Bean[45] Patagonia,[46] Canada Goose, Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, and Vineyard Vines have become part of conventional NESCAC style. This can be seen in sport stripes and colors, equestrian clothing, plaid shirts, field jackets and nautical-themed accessories worn by the students of the NESCAC.

Socioeconomics and social class[edit]

Many colleges banned fraternities and sororities on the grounds of unwarranted exclusivity, and provided on-campus social houses for all students to engage with. Williams College displaced their fraternity system in the 1960s due to high levels of racial and religious discrimination. President Chandler said, "there remained the system of blackballing and secret agreements between some fraternities and their national bodies to exclude blacks and Jews... it was essentially a caste system based on socioeconomic status as perceived by students."[47] Bates rejected the fraternity system in 1855, when it was founded. Colby disbanded its fraternities and sororities in 1984.[48] At Bowdoin, fraternities were phased out in 2000.[49] Colleges in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, are widely known for a prominent drinking culture.[50][51][52][53]

U.S. Presidents and the NESCAC[edit]

Schools in the New England Small College Athletic Conference have graduated four U.S. Presidents as of 2016.

Institution President Graduation Citations
Amherst College Calvin Coolidge Graduated Class of 1824 [54]
Bowdoin College Franklin Pierce Graduated Class of 1856 [55]
Williams College James A. Garfield Graduated Class of 1888 [56]

Note: Union College joined the NESCAC in 1971, but left in 1977, and was replaced by Connecticut College in 1982. Union graduated Chester A. Arthur in 1849.[57]

Competition and athletics[edit]

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.[58][59]

Institution Opponent (even years) Opponent (odd years)
Amherst Hamilton Bates
Bates Trinity Amherst
Bowdoin Williams Middlebury
Colby Trinity Williams
Hamilton Tufts Amherst
Middlebury Wesleyan Bowdoin
Trinity Colby Bates
Tufts Hamilton Wesleyan
Wesleyan Middlebury Tufts
Williams Bowdoin Colby
Colby playing Bates at their Homecoming Game in 2012

Four NESCAC institutions are among the 39 that founded the NCAA in 1905: Amherst, Tufts, Wesleyan, and Williams.[60] 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).[61] 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 within conference games.[62]

Athletic spending[edit]

The U. S. Department of Education publishes statistics on athletic spending by colleges. In 2013–14, athletic spending by NESCAC schools was as follows:[63]

Athletic Spending
Institution Athletic spending Amount per (unduplicated) athlete Div III Rank Amount per student
Amherst College $5,822,492 $10,324 41 $3,262
Bates College $5,181,170 $7,631 15 $3,293
Bowdoin College $5,905,648 $9,072 18 $3,303
Colby College $5,149,582 $8,110 19 $2,829
Connecticut College $3,756,307 $7,322 66 $2,006
Hamilton College $4,869,188 $8,618 38 $2,557
Middlebury College $5,235,614 $7,588 13 $2,132
Trinity College $5,885,489 $8,945 16 $2,752
Tufts University $4,342,883 $5,752 4 $849
Wesleyan University $5,379,896 $9,134 24 $1,863
Williams College $7,276,419 $9,780 5 $3,548

Note: Nine (out of the eleven) NESCAC schools rank in the top 25 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.

Conference venues[edit]

School Football Basketball Soccer
Stadium Capacity Arena Capacity Stadium Capacity
Amherst Pratt Field 8,000 LeFrak Gymnasium 2,450 Hitchcock Field 6,000
Bates Garcelon Field 3,000 Alumni Gymnasium 750 Russel Street Field 4,000
Bowdoin Whittier Field 9,000 Morrell Gymnasium 2,000 Pickard Field 4,500
Colby Harold Alfond Stadium 5,000 Wadsworth Gymnasium 2,500 Colby Soccer Field 3,700
Connecticut Non-football school N/A Luce Fieldhouse 800 Freeman Field 1,000
Hamilton Steuben Field 2,500 Margaret Bundy Scott Field House 2,500 Steuben Field 2,500
Middlebury Youngman Field at Alumni Stadium 3,500 Pepin Gymnasium 1,200 Middlebury Soccer Field 1,200
Trinity Jessee/Miller Field 6,500 Oosting Gym 2,000 Jessee/Miller Field 6,500
Tufts Ellis Oval 6,000 Cousens Gym 1,000 Ellis Oval 6,000
Wesleyan Andrus Field 5,000 Silloway Gymnasium 1,200 Jackson Field 1,200
Williams Weston Field 10,000 Chandler Gymnasium 2,900 Weston Field 10,000


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External links[edit]