Located in western Massachusetts’ Pioneer Valley, Amherst College was founded in 1821. Amherst has been a Div. III athletics powerhouse in recent years, winning 11 NCAA team championships in the past 10 years. Amherst’s greatest rival in the NESCAC is Williams College, perhaps because Amherst was founded when the president of Williams attempted to relocate the college. The Amherst vs. Williams football game began in 1884 and is referred to as the “Biggest Little Game in America.”
Bates College is located in Lewiston, Maine. The Bobcats’ greatest athletic flex might be the Olympic medals won by alumnus Andrew Byrnes, who was a member of the Canadian Olympic rowing team that took gold in Beijing in 2008 and silver in London in 2012. Byrnes’ success demonstrates a strong rowing tradition at Bates. The women’s rowing team at Bates is currently in the midst of a mini dynasty, winning national championships in four of the past five years.
Bowdoin College is located in Brunswick, Maine. Bowdoin’s northern coastal location allows for the survival of its Polar Bear mascot, a species usually only found in the Arctic. Bowdoin teams were often found in the basement of the NESCAC standings this past year. The Tufts football team defeated Bowdoin 49–0 on Homecoming weekend. As if the Polar Bears didn’t have enough to worry about with climate change…
The White Mules from Colby College got their nickname in 1923 when an editor for the student paper noted that as a result of the football team’s success, the team could no longer be referred to as a dark horse. Colby is located in Waterville, Maine. It would be wise not to ask any White Mules about last year’s NESCAC men’s basketball championship game. The incoming first-year class ranks top-20 for men’s tennis, second in program history.
Connecticut College, the “youngest” in the NESCAC, was founded in 1911 as the Connecticut College for Women. Nearly six decades later, in 1969, the school began admitting men. That same year Mike Shinault, a former Navy officer, volunteered to coach the new men’s basketball team. The players on the team wanted a mascot, and Shinault recalled a team he had seen while serving in Pakistan called the Camels — and the nickname stuck. The Connecticut College campus resides in New London, Conn.
Named after famed founding father and pop culture superstar Alexander Hamilton, who was on the school’s inaugural board of trustees, Hamilton College is the only school in the NESCAC not located in New England. For the Jumbos, competing with the Continentals means enduring long travel times, as it takes around four and a half hours to travel to their home in Clinton, N.Y. Over the years, the Continentals have handed the Jumbos a few upset defeats, however they have not won a NESCAC championship since men’s golf in 2003.
In recent years, Middlebury College has emerged as a NESCAC powerhouse. Last fall, the Panthers shocked the rest of the conference as their football team went on a NESCAC-leading 9–0 run. Over the past decade, the school located in Middlebury, Vt. has shown arguably the most dominance in field hockey, where it holds the last three consecutive NESCAC championships and NCAA championships.
Located in Hartford, Conn., Trinity College has historically wreaked havoc on the rest of the conference on the football field. With five 8–0 seasons, Trinity still holds the record for the most undefeated football seasons out of any team in the NESCAC. Last fall, the Jumbos made history as they upset the Bantam football team in a monumental 14–8 win, breaking a nearly 12-year losing streak. Arguably, Trinity’s strongest sport is squash, where both the men’s and women’s teams have won every conference championship since 2007.
Wesleyan University was founded in 1831 and is located in Middletown, Conn. The school that produced such talents as “Hamilton” (2015) playwright Lin Manuel Miranda also boasts an impressive corps of talent on its athletic fields. Known colloquially as one of the “Little Three” alongside Williams and Amherst — a reference to the Ivy League’s “Big Three” — Wesleyan boasts some of the biggest challenges in its men’s lacrosse and women’s tennis teams.
Named after founder Ephraim Williams, the Williams College Ephs are among some of the fiercest competitors in the NESCAC. Locked into a 199-year-old rivalry with the Amherst Mammoths, the Ephs have long been competing for top spots in the NESCAC as a staple of Div. III sports. In the 2018–19 academic year, the Ephs won their 22nd Learfield IMG College Directors’ Cup award, which is annually presented to the school that earns the most cumulative success in Div. III competition. The award has been in place for 24 years. With an undergraduate population of 2,073 — of which 33% compete in varsity sports — the competitive drive at Williams is reverberated throughout New England.