New Paltz To Leave SUNYAC In 2027

SUNY New Paltz commits to a transition out of the SUNYAC conference to benefit the campus community at large. Photo courtesy of Isabel Van Der Veen.

The State University of New York at New Paltz has begun the process of a historic change to the university’s athletic department. At the close of the 2026-2027 academic year, SUNY New Paltz athletics will be transitioning into a new athletic conference, leaving SUNYAC behind. 

“The transition to a new conference will position SUNY New Paltz to expand its athletics recruitment footprint, as well as our overall institutional awareness, beyond our historical markets,” said Director of Athletics, Wellness & Recreation Renee Bostic in the university’s press release.

Although the SUNYAC conference has retained New Paltz as a member for over 60 years, there are a few key reasons why this change is occurring. Currently, travel times to SUNYAC opponents can be upwards of five or six-hour — an average commute of four hours for New Paltz conference-wide — and said travel is typically done the same day as the competition. Within the conference, New Paltz is the most south and most east member, far away from schools in the northwest. The new conference selected will be done with commute times in mind as it will save both time and money, as well as benefit student-athletes, coaches and team supporters’ well-beings.

By reducing travel times and the need for overnight stays, the change will also be cost-effective, reducing the amount spent on transportation and boarding. Money saved can be reinvested into other athletic initiatives, such as “intramural sports, athletics facilities, group exercise classes and the many other wellness opportunities provided [on campus].” In doing this, students across campus — athletes or not — can benefit from this change.

The change also values the importance of recognition of SUNY New Paltz’s 16 varsity programs. In the SUNYAC, there is great emphasis on sports such as ice hockey and the newest addition to SUNYAC sports, men’s wrestling. Those are also two sports that SUNY New Paltz does not offer. New Paltz also does not sport men’s and women’s track teams, another SUNYAC-sponsored sport. Moving to a conference with similar sports to New Paltz’s array would increase exposure and heighten media content for the university’s athletes and teams. 

By being a member of a different conference, recruitment pools will also change. Coaches will have the ability to recruit athletes who are interested in being members of the new conference and may have a different opinion of becoming a Hawk if games and competitions are closer to New Paltz and their homes. 

The SUNYAC conference sponsors collegiate athletic programs for SUNY institutions across the state. Currently, the conference sponsors 11 men’s sports and 12 women’s sports across multiple Division III programs: Brockport, Buffalo State, Cortland, Fredonia, Geneseo, Oneonta, Oswego, Plattsburgh, Pottsdam and New Paltz. 

SUNY New Paltz was one of the original schools involved in the creation of the conference, alongside other colleges such as Brockport and Buffalo State, two fellow longstanding members. During New Paltz’s time in the SUNYAC, teams brought home the championship 32 times and reached the NCAA tournament 33 times. There are still two academic years remaining for teams to win the SUNYAC tournament for their respective sports.

“We take pride in our longstanding membership in SUNYAC, and I want to express gratitude to conference leadership and our outstanding competitors across the state system,” said SUNY New Paltz President Darrell P. Wheeler in the release. “The timing is right for our institution to pursue a new alignment that will create fresh opportunities for our entire student population and the university as a whole.”

Recently, the conference has seen many additions and subtractions from its members. Brockport and Geneseo, two highly competitive programs within the conference, have already announced their departure at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year, leaving to join the Empire 8 conference, soon to be the Empire 11. 

In 2009, SUNY Morrisville left the SUNYAC after a two-year membership, yet remained an affiliate school to the conference. For the 2024-2025 academic year, however, both SUNY Morrisville and SUNY Canton will join the SUNYAC as full-time members and six affiliate schools will also be invited to participate in select sports. Ithaca, RIT, St. John Fisher and Utica will sponsor men’s wrestling teams alongside Brockport, Cortland, Oneonta and Oswego. Alfred College will also join as an associate member, sponsoring men’s and women’s track teams within the SUNYAC. 

Similarly to New Paltz leaving the SUNYAC, many of these institutions entered or left the SUNYAC to reduce travel times and to highlight varsity teams that would not get recognition or would not be sponsored if part of another conference. 

Overall, changing conferences marks a new beginning for SUNY New Paltz athletics. No need to plan on moving now, as there will be “no changes to the existing structure” of the conference until the 2026-2027 year. The change is not immediate, nor is it known where the Hawks will end up, but the university is in pursuit of a new conference that we can call home. As the transition progresses, more information will be provided when available.