EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com) – The New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) announced on today that the State University of New York at Oneonta, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse and UW-Whitewater will join the conference as affiliate members in the sport of men's tennis beginning in the 2019-20 academic year. With the additions, the NJAC will feature eight men's tennis sponsoring institutions in 2019-20, including four full-member programs in Ramapo College, Rutgers University-Camden, Rutgers University-Newark, and The College of New Jersey in addition to the four new affiliate member programs.
"The members of the NJAC are very pleased to welcome each of these new affiliate members," said Susan Cole, the Chair of the NJAC Presidents Council and President of Montclair State University. "We are certain that their addition to the conference will enhance the athletic and competition opportunities both for our student-athletes and theirs. The NJAC enjoys a very strong reputation in Division III athletics, and the new affiliate members will further enhance the conference's existing stature."
After originally sponsoring the sport of men's tennis from a period of 1959 to 1998, the NJAC eliminated men's tennis as a conference sport due to a lack of institutional sport sponsorship. Following a recent league policy change, the sport was reinstated in the NJAC in 2019 after a 21-year hiatus. The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) discontinued sponsoring the sport of men's tennis in 1996.
"We are excited to welcome our new affiliate member programs and to provide them with the opportunity to be a part of our conference," said NJAC Commissioner Terry Small. "This is a unique situation in which we are taking a group of like programs, some of which have not had the opportunity to compete in a conference for many years and giving them a league home. We believe there is real value in terms of being a member of our conference, including, but not limited to, the ability to compete for our conference championship. We are very grateful to all of the various constituents who have worked extremely hard to make this concept become a reality."
With the expanded league men's tennis membership, the conference will operate with a divisional structure. Full-member programs Ramapo, Rutgers-Camden, Rutgers-Newark, and TCNJ will comprise the NJAC East Division, while new affiliate member programs SUNY Oneonta, UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse, and UW-Whitewater will comprise the NJAC West Division. The two divisional winners will meet in the inaugural NJAC Championship match on Saturday, April 25, 2020 at the home courts of the East Division winner. Future NJAC league championship matches are scheduled for Saturday, May 1, 2021 at the home courts of the East Division winner; and Saturday, April 30, 2022 at the home courts of the West Division winner.
With four core member programs and four affiliates, the NJAC will be in line to receive an automatic qualification to the NCAA Division III Men's Tennis Tournament beginning in the 2022 season.
"The UW-Eau Claire Athletic Department would like to thank the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Council of Presidents and the Commissioner of the NJAC, Terry Small, for the vision to expand men's tennis by creating an access to a championship with the addition of associate membership," said Director of Athletics Dan Schumacher. "This opportunity allows our tennis program to tell a prospective student-athlete that they can play for a NJAC Championship. This is an exciting time for men's tennis on the UWEC Campus."