The mission of the ECAC shall be to initiate and provide intercollegiate athletics opportunities for student-athletes while promoting and developing leadership and excellence. The ECAC shall understand and support the programs and philosophies of each member; while enhancing participation and maintaining equitable opportunities for all student-athletes. The ECAC will develop and implement programs and services for the membership; while promoting its membership’s student-athletes, coaches andadministrators.
On January 2, 1938, what is now the ECAC, started as the Central Office for Eastern Intercollegiate Athletics with Executive Director, Asa Bushnell, a secretary, a two-room suite in the Hotel Roosevelt, a $28,000 yearly budget, and a mimeograph machine.
At the time, a number of eastern intercollegiate leagues and associations were going their own ways, duplicating efforts and spending unnecessary funds. The solution was reached when a group of athletic administrators reached the conclusion that one central office would be a wise alternative. Bushnell headed the organization until 1970, introducing the practices of scheduling, recruiting officials, training them, and assigning. Initially, there were about 48 colleges. When World War II came along and college sports dwindled, Bushnell kept it alive and was ready for the great expansion in athletics.
By 1952, the ECAC Holiday Basketball Festival was born. It became a tradition like no other in college sports. The Holiday Festival and other prestigious intercollegiate events such as the IC4A Track & Field Championships at Madison Square Garden, along with the National Invitational Tournament, which the ECAC coordinated from 1938-1980, were synonymous with the organization.
The year 1961 marked the inaugural season of ECAC Division III Hockey. Over the course of the past 53 seasons, ECAC Division III Hockey has grown from a single league without a conference tournament into a five-league power that administers five conference championships each season.
ECAC Division III Hockey consistently produces some of the nation’s best hockey programs, as ECAC teams have won over a dozen national championships, including Elmira College’s Division III Women’s National Title in 2013, and Plattsburgh State’s Women’s National Title in 2014. In addition, ECAC Division III Hockey teams occupy nearly half of the national polls on a weekly basis.
In 1972, the ECAC staff was outgrowing its headquarters in New York City. Scotty Whitelaw had taken over as ECAC Commissioner and a search committee eventually selected the building it occupied for 42 years in Centerville, Mass., as its new home.
Another major milestone came in 1983, when under the direction of the legendary Scotty Whitelaw, the ECAC became one of the first conferences in the nation to provide championships in women’s athletics. That same year marked one of the most significant events in the history of the ECAC. Following the success of the championships, the EAIAW was consolidated into the ECAC, doubling its number of championships and greatly increasing its member base.
The landscape of intercollegiate athletics has changed drastically over the years and is ever-evolving, as is the ECAC. Through the years, the ECAC has exerted leadership not only at the regional level but at the national level as well. Comprising more than 33 percent of the NCAA membership, the conference plays an integral role in national collegiate athletics policy and legislation. Today, we are proud to say that over 300 members strong comprise the ECAC, and we are just as proud of the services we provide – Championships, Officiating, Awards, Leagues and Affiliates, and so much more. The conference, led by Commissioner Kevin McGinniss, continues today to address many of the same issues affecting college athletics in the past while striving to lead this industry in the 21st century.
Last year, the ECAC partnered with Madison Square Garden at the annual Holiday Festival again where student-athletes and legendary coaches and administrators were honored on a day that the ECAC shined bright. Also last year, the ECAC was proud to serve as a host of the NCAA Men’s Division I Frozen Four, and the NCAA Division III Baseball Regionals. We have expanded our awards program to honor over 5,000 student-athletes a year, and continue to develop our officiating services through recruiting, training, assigning, and evaluating. We’ve added exciting new championships such as a Division II basketball tournament, a Division II field hockey tournament, a Division II Football Bowl Game, and continue to explore new opportunities to enhance the student-athlete experience.
In the spring of 2014, the ECAC announced that the organization would move its headquarters to Danbury, Connecticut. The transition to the Matrix Corporate Center in Southern New England strategically positions the ECAC headquarters and its staff in a centralized location that is accessible to its entire membership. The new location will be equipped with a strong technology infrastructure, is easily accessible to major highways, airports, and hotels, and offers space for conference meetings, as well as a venue for awards dinners and other special events.
And, as always, the ECAC continues to pursue its mission of initiating, stimulating, and improving the intercollegiate athletics programs for student-athletes, and to promote and develop educational leadership, athletics excellence, and athletics participation.