Founded in 1821, Amherst College resides in its namesake Massachusetts town less than 100 miles from Medford. The recently christened Mammoths — renamed after they abandoned their previous mascot, the Lord Jeffs, due to its connections with white oppression — sport purple and white attire, which have been the school’s official colors since April 30, 1868. Last year, Amherst’s strongest program was women’s basketball. The team put up a perfect 33-0 record en route to a national championship victory over Tufts (whose only losses that season came at the hands of Amherst). Other prominent Mammoth squads include football (NESCAC champions or co-champions from 2013-2015) and men’s soccer (four conference titles in the past six seasons, plus a national championship in 2015). Amherst’s fiercest rival is Williams, and the schools’ football teams compete in “The Biggest Little Game in America” every fall.
One of three Maine-based schools in the NESCAC, Bates College (founded in 1855) is located in the city of Lewiston. The Bobcats don garnet, black and gray uniforms, many of which feature the school’s relatively new logo (adopted in 2013). Bates’ strongest programs by far are its rowing teams, as both the men and women swept the NESCACs in 2015 and 2017. The women’s squad also won the national championship in both 2015 and 2017. Outside of crew, Bates teams have won just three conference championships since the turn of the century: women’s soccer in 2005 and men’s track and field in 2000 and 2012.
Despite its Polar Bears moniker, Brunswick-based Bowdoin College (established in 1794) is the southernmost Maine member of the NESCAC. The school’s black and white colors evoke its ursine nickname, which was chosen to honor Robert Peary, a Bowdoin alumnus and leader of the first-ever expedition to the North Pole. In recent years, Bowdoin’s most successful program has been its field hockey team. 2016 was just the second season since 2004 in which the team was not the NESCAC winner or runner-up. Additionally, between 2007 and 2014, the Polar Bears won the field hockey national championship four times. Another excellent Bowdoin program is its men’s tennis team, which secured the NESCAC title in 2017 after winning the national championship in 2016.
The northernmost member of the NESCAC, Colby College was founded in Waterville, Maine in 1813. The Mules (formerly the White Mules, with the school deciding to shorten the nickname in 2002) wear Colby Blue and Priscilla Gray uniforms. Of the school’s six team conference titles since 2000, the women’s lacrosse team has earned half of them, including their successful 2017 campaign. The only Mule squad with a national championship is the 2003 women’s rowing team.
By two measures — year of founding (1911) and year of entry into the NESCAC (1982) — Connecticut College is the youngest school in the conference. The New London, Conn. institution is also the only school without a football team, due in part to its being an all-women’s college until 1969 (the same year that the school adopted the Camels as its nickname). The school’s official colors are dark blue and white. Despite some success in individual athletics, just one Conn. College team — the 2014 women’s soccer squad — has won a NESCAC title in the 21st century.
Located in Clinton, N.Y., Hamilton College is the NESCAC’s only non-New England member and the campus that is farthest away from Medford. The school, chartered in 1812, pays homage to its Revolutionary War-era roots in several ways. For starters, Hamilton is named for Founding Father, former trustee and current musical theater protagonist Alexander Hamilton. Additionally, its “Continentals” mascot (the term for a soldier in the Continental Army) and Continental Blue and buff color scheme (identical to that of the Army’s New York regiment) evince the school’s historical roots. With just one national championship under its belt — a 2008 triumph in women’s lacrosse — Hamilton’s athletic pedigree is considerably less substantial than many of its NESCAC rivals.
Established on the first day of November in 1800, Middlebury College is the NESCAC’s sole Vermont-based institution. Middlebury’s mascot, the Panther, is a relic of New England’s past, when the big cats were still present in the region. The school also boasts an impressive athletic tradition. Since 1993 — when the NESCAC first allowed all members to participate in national postseason tournaments with the exception of football — Middlebury is tied with Williams for the league lead in national championships with 35. From 2004 to 2006, both the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams won three consecutive national titles, a run unparalleled in any NCAA division. A perennial powerhouse in many sports, the Panthers have captured national championships in women’s lacrosse (2016), field hockey (2015) and women’s cross country (2010) in addition to numerous conference titles in recent years.
Trinity College, located in Hartford, Conn., may have the most unique mascot in a league full of them. The school’s ‘Bantams’ moniker (a relatively small yet aggressive breed of fowl) can be traced back to an 1899 speech by alumnus and United States judge, Joseph Buffington, in which he praised his alma mater for holding its own among Harvard and Yale — the big shots of the “collegiate barnyard.” Trinity has enjoyed remarkable success in a number of sports recently. In 2008, the school’s baseball team capped off a 45-1 season with a national championship, while its women’s lacrosse team reached five straight national title games from 2012 to 2016, winning in 2012. The Bantams also consistently boast one of the NESCAC’s strongest football teams, having won the league last year for the seventh time since 2002. Perhaps most impressive, though, is Trinity’s men’s squash program. The team holds the record for the longest winning streak of any NCAA team in any sport — 252 games from 1998 to 2012 — and has captured 16 of the past 19 national championships.
Founded in 1852 on Walnut Hill in Medford, Mass., Tufts University has been a member of the NESCAC since the league’s official formation in 1971. The Jumbos (named after the world-famous elephant promoted by the legendary P.T. Barnum, a generous supporter of the school) wear brown and blue. Tufts teams have assembled an impressive record of success over the past 10 years, winning a combined nine national titles and 26 NESCAC championships. Highlights from last year included the men’s soccer team clinching its second national title in three seasons, the field hockey team claiming its first conference title since 2009 and earning runner up in the national tournament, the football team going 7-1 for its best showing in nearly two decades and the women’s basketball team reaching its second consecutive national championship game.
The second largest school in the NESCAC by undergraduate enrollment, Wesleyan University is situated in Middletown, Conn. While Wesleyan’s sports teams have donned Cardinal red and black uniforms since 1884, the school didn’t officially adopt the Cardinal mascot until nearly 50 years later, when its football players made light of a newspaper derisively referring to them as “the mysterious ministers from Middletown” by wearing clothing with cardinal birds. Although Wesleyan teams have enjoyed limited success on the national stage, the school’s individual players include senior Eudice Chong, who has captured three consecutive NCAA Div. III singles titles in women’s tennis. The Little Three rivalry among Wesleyan, Amherst and Williams dates back to the nineteenth century, and the schools compete for supremacy every year. The Cardinals took home five Little Three championships in 2016–17, their second-largest haul ever.
Founded in 1793, Williams College shares the title of oldest NESCAC institution with Hamilton and claims an impressive list of alumni, including President James Garfield. The Ephs (a shortened version of founder Ephraim Williams’ name) have won 35 national championships (33 since 1992) in their notorious purple and gold uniforms. The women’s crew team is responsible for nine of those titles, having captured them consecutively from 2006 to 2013, while the women’s tennis team has won the national championship in eight of the past 10 years. 2015 was a banner calendar year for Williams athletics, as four Eph teams took home national titles. Of course, the biggest Williams sporting event of the year is the annual football game against its archrival Amherst College.
Correction: A previous version of this article said that Williams had won 33 national championships, when it has actually won 35. The Daily regrets this error.