By H. DUKE SANFORD
Sun Wow Editor
The chances of the men’s basketball team making the NCAA Tournament will significantly increase by next season. This weekend, ECAC President Wayne Dean announced that the league will become a Division I basketball conference for the 2007-08 season.
“We are very excited to increase our conference’s basketball presence,” Dean said. “We are known for our hockey league with such teams as Cornell and Clarkson, but we felt that elevating our standards across the board would be beneficial to all the schools in our conference.”
Thanks to the league’s improvement, the men’s basketball team, along with other Ivy members Dartmouth and Brown will move to the ECAC conference. The move was made for multiple reasons, the main one being the existence of a conference tournament.
“We wanted to give our kids a chance to enjoy March Madness,” said Director of Athletics Andrew Noel. “We have, along with other Ivy League schools made repeated attempts to have a conference tournament but the League’s board of directors would never give it the final O.K., no matter how close we got.”
The newly renovated league will have eight members, three of which — Cornell, Dartmouth and Brown — are from the Ivy League. It is also rumored the league will go after perennial March Madness Cinderella teams, Winthrop and UW-Milwaukee, to join the league. The ECAC season will begin Jan. 4th and the conference tournament, which all teams are invited to, will start on Thursday, March 13, 2007. The winner of the tournament will automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
“We are very pleased with the move,” said head coach Steve Donahue. “We felt that the Ivy League failed to recognize team improvement by choosing not to have a conference tournament. Early in the season, we were faced with numerous injuries but by the end of the season, players like [freshmen] Geoff Reeves and Alex Tyler came on strong. Imagine, if they could carry that momentum into a league tournament.”
The Ivy League is the only conference, among all 33 (32 previous to the ECACs upgrade) that does not hold a conference tournament.
The news, while alarming, pleased the team.
“’Bout damn time,” said sophomore guard Conor Mullen. “We will probably throw a party because of it. As a matter of fact, party at 919 E. State Street this Saturday, everybody is invited, courtesy of the basketball team.”
“No, no, Conor … all girls are invited, I really don’t care for the guys,” said sophomore guard Jason Battle.
“Good point … well played J. Battle, well played,” Mullen said.
The upgrade is the first of many steps the ECAC will take to improve its conference. Following the 2007-08 season, the conference will add more Division I sports, including baseball, softball and soccer. The conference’s expansion could lead to even more Cornell teams moving to the ECAC conference.
Ivy League officials were not available for comment.