Seven NCAA schools have come together to form a new multi-sport Division III conference. The American Collegiate Athletic Association recently received approval from the NCAA Division III Membership Committee to begin official operations effective Sept. 1, 2017. Alfred State, SUNY Canton, Finlandia, Mills, Pine Manor, Maine-Presque Isle and Valley Forge proudly announced the new conference this week.
Start-up for the new ACAA will be led by Kelly J. Higgins as the first commissioner. Most recently, Higgins was athletic director at Alfred State.
"This has been almost two years in the making," Higgins stated. "It was built upon the foundation and help of the D3 Independents Association, the willingness of the leaders from each of our current institutions to think out of the box and boldly create something unique that could not only serve the student-athletes of our current institutions, but also build it with a flexible format that allows us to grow the league over time. This would not have been possible without the help and expertise of Dr. Kurt Patberg, of Athletic Staffing & Consultants. Kurt was a critical element in helping this diverse group pull together the necessary pieces to make this day a reality and we are all thankful for the help. We also need to thank the NCAA D-III senior staff for all their assistance they've given us since we started down this path. We still have work to do, but as of today, we are proudly celebrating the efforts made by all involved for the ACAA membership to take this first step."
Dr. Zvi Szafran, president of SUNY Canton, confirmed this mission in his cover letter to the NCAA: "Our league is focused on inclusion and opportunity to provide support and a home for conference identity for our current members and other institutions across the country that may be looking for a conference."
Current ACAA sports include men's and women's cross country, men's and women's soccer, women's volleyball, men's and women's basketball and softball. With the support of the D3 Independents Association, the ACAA has already initiated and completed unofficial postseason championships this year in volleyball, men's and women's cross country and men's and women's soccer. The 2017 ACAA men's and women's basketball tournaments will be held Feb. 25-26 at Alfred State and Pine Manor, respectively. All sponsored sports will be holding official postseason championships starting in 2017-18.
With seven schools, the conference would be eligible for automatic bids in 2019-20 in the sports which all schools offer. Notably, basketball is not one of them.