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Canalside Chronicles

The Student News Site of Canalside Chronicles

Canalside Chronicles

The Student News Site of Canalside Chronicles

Canalside Chronicles

A second chance
May 7, 2024

A new beginning

A+new+beginning

By Aidan Briggs

BROCKPORT,NY  In late August, SUNY Brockport athletic director Erik Hart and assistant athletic director Steven Pike sent out a statement with a simple message; Brockport is moving on. Brockport, along with SUNY Geneseo will be joining the Empire 8 athletic conference, beginning in the 2024-25 athletic seasons. A founding member of the SUNYAC, Brockport athletics has been a part of it for more than six decades. 

In a statement to the Brockport community Hart said, “We look forward to continued competition with SUNYAC institutions, regardless of conference membership, for years to come…” Brockport’s 23 athletic teams have won 81 SUNYAC championships. Now 20 of the sports will have a new beginning, with new competition and new championships to compete for.

The Process

Brockport’s mascot Ellsworth donning Empire 8 gear at a football game (Photo via SUNY Brockport, 2017).

Switching conferences is a complex process and it’s not a one size fits all strategy. For example, Brockport’s gymnastics will remain in the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association(NCGA), as the Empire 8 does not have a gymnastics division currently. The same goes for wrestling and ice hockey. Brockport’s wrestling team will remain in the Empire Collegiate Wrestling Conference (ECWC) . Ice hockey will also be moving out of the SUNYAC but into the United Collegiate Hockey Conference (UCHC).  

“It’s a work in progress, no men’s ice hockey or wrestling and then no gymnastics on the women’s side, but we were able to find homes for those sports and we’re excited about that,” Pike said. 

This also allows Brockport to continue complying with Title IX requirements – educational institutions must offer the equal number of men’s and women’s sports or one more women’s sport. The ability to find or retain homes for these three sports then allowed Brockport to look at the benefits of joining the Empire 8 and couldn’t pass them up. 

The Reasons

SUNY Brockport men’s basketball celebrates a 2017 SUNYAC title (Photo via SUNY Brockport, 2017).

“A major benefit (of switching conferences) was the majority of the conference being closer which simply means student-athletes would miss less class time, travel less, be able to engage with campus more which are all important things for them,” said Pike. “Leaving the SUNYAC was difficult as a founding member with a long term connection, change can be hard.” 

The process to join the Empire 8 goes back 20-30 years and previous administrations. Over the past five years, Brockport really started to get serious. More research, both generally and financially was taking place and Brockport was able to find improvements in the student-athlete experience. 

“We’re always looking at ways to improve student life, to improve athletes’ time here on campus,” said Pike. “And this seemed like a pretty beneficial change, we’re excited.” 

Excitement for Women’s Basketball

SUNY Brockport’s women’s basketball coach Corinne Jones is excited for her team to get a new opportunity as well. 

“It’s a new challenge, new teams, new rivals,” Jones said. “We’re excited for it but this year we’re focused on ‘Let’s just kinda mic drop on the SUNYAC and move into the Empire 8.” 

SUNY Brockport’s basketball court (Photo via SUNY Brockport, 2017).

The women’s basketball team, a program that has won four SUNYAC titles in their history and believes they can compete for another in their final year as a member of the conference, is excited to begin the season. While Jones and her group are solely focused on the current year and winning a title, there certainly is some thought put towards the Empire 8 and the chances Brockport will have competing in the new conference. 

“I don’t know if it’s extra motivation. I think we have some motivation to go ahead and leave (the SUNYAC) with a championship and kinda prove ourselves going into the new conference,” said Jones. 

Empire 8 History

SUNY Brockport will become the conference’s tenth full time member joining Alfred University, Elmira College, Hartwick College, Houghton University, Keuka College, Nazareth University, Russell Sage College, St. John Fisher University and Utica University. Geneseo, joining along with Brockport will push the total to 11. The conference has nearly a 60 year history, dating back to its start in 1964 as the Independent College Athletic Conference (ICAC). In 1991, the reorganization resulted in a name change to the Empire Athlete Association (EAA), a single sport conference- only men’s and women’s basketball competed. Finally in 1999, it was given its title as the Empire 8, offered 13 sports and has remained since with the addition of new teams and sports throughout the past two decades. 

A chart showing membership history for the Empire 8, 2024 is expected amount* (Chart via Aidan Briggs, 2023).

Change can be hard, but in the long run Pike and Brockport have confidence and excitement in their programs moving on to the Empire 8. It provides new challenges, rivals and a new story for Brockport athletics to write. 

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