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UMass Lowell Celebrates Transition To Division I Athletics

Sep 05, 2017 04:10AM ● By Theresa Gilman

River Hawks

(Editor's Note: the following information was provided by UMass Lowell.)

LOWELL, Mass. -- Following a vote by the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, Chancellor Jacqueline Moloney was informed that the University of Massachusetts Lowell has successfully completed the transition from Division II to Division I and is an “active” member of Division I. All River Hawk teams are now eligible for NCAA and conference post-season competition.

“I am so proud of and thankful to the hundreds of people who have made this move possible during the last five years,” Moloney said. “Every day UMass Lowell is reaching new heights in academics and research. Marty Meehan’s vision for the way Division I athletics could further raise this institution’s profile will permanently and continually benefit this university and this community in the decades ahead.”

To celebrate the achievement and plan for successes in the years ahead, the university will host the Rise Up Celebration of Sport Oct. 12, 2017 at the historic Lowell Memorial Auditorium. UMass Lowell Athletic Director Dana Skinner and university officials will showcase the university’s rich athletic legacy as well as its five-year Rise Up Athletics Strategic Plan.

The evening will feature dinner, musical performances, exciting videos of UMass Lowell’s most thrilling past athletic moments and hall of fame inductions.  Tickets can be obtained through

“Sports places a special emphasis on teamwork,” Skinner said, “and there has been no better example of teamwork than this transition process. The entire campus and community owned the move to Division I and has shared in the excitement surrounding the transformation of the athletics program.”

Skinner called the move another significant step forward for an institution that has risen 31 spots in the rankings of top-tier national universities according to the U.S. World and News Report, the second-fastest rise in the country.

In 2012, under the direction of then-Chancellor Marty Meehan, the university community worked for more than a year to chart a roadmap to excellence in all areas of university life.

“Athletics are the front porch of a university and the first touchpoint for most people outside of your institutional bubble. Our academic peers were competing in Division I and we believed strongly that it was important to be on the same field with our academic peers both literally and figuratively,” said Meehan, who is now president of the five-campus UMass system. “But even more importantly, a successful intercollegiate athletic program is known to contribute to efforts to increase enrollment, broaden institutional visibility, enhance student life and expand student diversity.”

The America East Conference welcomed UMass Lowell as a league member in 2013 and worked closely with the campus throughout the transition.

“The impressive academic profiles of the member institutions, the quality and structure of the athletics programs, the range of schools spanning the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, and the proximity of the schools to UMass Lowell have made America East an ideal fit for our campus,” Skinner said.

Competitive successes during the four-year transition included regular-season team championships in men’s cross country and men’s soccer, and notable wins against established Division I teams such as Boston College (men’s basketball), Cincinnati, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech (baseball), and Georgetown and St. Bonaventure (softball).

Other achievements included field hockey student-athlete Kelly Freitas being named the 2016 America East Women of the Year; increases every semester in the overall student-athlete grade point average, reaching a 3.21 in the spring of 2017; the signing of an apparel deal with Under Armour; the construction of new facilities for academic service, athletic training; field hockey, soccer and lacrosse; and the renovation of the Tsongas Center for basketball.

While UMass Lowell’s America East Conference teams were ineligible for post-season tournaments during the transition period, the hockey team carried the banner of success for the university.  The 2016-17 River Hawks captured their third Hockey East Championship and made their fifth NCAA appearance in six years.

“With membership in Hockey East and America East,” continued Skinner, “we believe we are perfectly placed in conferences that share our view of the proper role athletics should play in a higher education environment. We’re looking forward to an exciting future for our student-athletes.”

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