Brockport football team to join Empire 8 conference
Brockport's football team will move to the Empire 8 conference as an affiliate member, starting in the fall of 2014.
The move was announced by College at Brockport President John Halstead, along with Interim Athletic Director Erick Hart, head coach Rocco Salomone and Empire 8 commissioner Chuck Mitrano at a press conference Wednesday afternoon at the Brockport MetroCenter.
The school will leave the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) and join Alfred University, Buffalo State College, Frosburg State University, Hartwick College, Ithaca College, Salisbury University, St. John Fisher College and Utica College.
"I kept looking through the list, thinking I missed something," Hart said after the announcement. "This [move to the Empire 8 conference] is all positives."
Hart said the move is good for Rochester, renewing local rivalries, the college as a whole and the student-athletes.
As part of the NJAC, the Brockport football team was making overnight trips to games four to five times a year, said Hart. As part of the Empire 8, that will happen only once a year, keeping the athletes in more Friday classes and cutting down on the expenses to travel it.
"It was a long time coming," Salomone said. "We can renew natural rivalries; play teams in the region again consistently, year in and year out.
"It's exciting. It'll stimulate the program, the campus and the area."
President Halstead said initial thoughts to make the move were started a few years ago. Daan Braveman, President at Nazareth College and the Empire 8, called him urging him to consider the move. Halstead said other local school presidents also called about moving to the conference.
It was a long time coming, but the final movements were made swiftly. It went final last Friday and information for the press conference was released Tuesday night.
Halstead also announced improvements to Eunice Kennedy Shriver Stadium. The facility will undergo $2.1 million in upgrades, including field turf, stadium lights and transforming the bleachers. He said it will "enhance the total program" and create venues for other sports, while also reaching out to the Rochester area and stimulating the economy.
"Artificial turf allows the team the opportunity to prepare for games on a consistent surface," Salomone said. "It's the wave of the future. It's a tremendous aspect, not only for our kids, for our recruiting, but also for Section V (high school football) to use for games. It's a tremendous venue for us and the state."
The money for the upgrades is from the State University Construction Fund and will have no effect on student fees and tuition, said Halstead.
"A place to practice is what we really need," Hart said. "Turf allows us to compete, practice [and] it puts us on part with other teams. Right now we're not. Turf puts us on track."
Brockport has played at least one member of the Empire 8 during the last four seasons. The Eagles kicked off their 2011 season with a tight 19-14 loss to Ithaca College.
Halstead hinted to another big announcement in the press conference to be made Sept. 14.
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