Robert Morris is a potential candidate to join the Horizon League in most sports, and has also been considering a move to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Pittsburgh Sports Now has learned.
The news of Robert Morris being a candidate in the Horizon League was first reported by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports.
The change could come as soon as the 2020-21 season. RMU has played in the Northeast Conference since joining NCAA Division I in 1981
The Horizon League currently has 10 schools across the Midwest, with the nearest potential opponents being Cleveland State and Youngstown State in eastern Ohio. The rest of the conference is Detroit, Fort Wayne, Green Bay, Illinois-Chicago, IUPUI, Milwaukee, Northern Kentucky, Oakland and Wright State.
The schools are mostly public, with the exception of Detroit, and have endowments between $28.7 and $850 million. Robert Morris is a private university with an endowment of $36.3 million as of 2018.
The Horizon League sponsors baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, indoor and outdoor track and field.
In addition to those sports, Robert Morris sponsors football, men’s and women’s ice hockey and men’s and women’s lacrosse. The hockey teams play in unaffiliated leagues, but football and the lacrosse teams would need to find new homes, as they are not sponsored by the Horizon League.
With six men’s teams, Robert Morris is at the Division minimum, and could not cut football or men’s lacrosse without adding another sport.
From a men’s basketball perspective, the Colonials would be moving up in Division I. According to KenPom.com, the NEC was 27th amongst conferences in average adjusted efficiency in 2019-20, while the Horizon League was 22nd.
Robert Morris was the No. 207 team in the country in adjusted efficiency in 2019-20, which was third in the NEC, behind St. Francis University and Sacred Heart. It would have been fourth in the Horizon League, behind Wright State, Northern Kentucky and Illinois-Chicago.
RMU’s new UPMC Events Center, which opened in 2019, seats 4,000, which would be the smallest in the Horizon League. The current league venues range from Cleveland State’s 13,610-seat Wolstein Arena to Oakland’s 4,005-seat Athletics Center O’rena.
The league is set to add Fort Wayne for 2020, which will give the conference an uneven number of teams with 11 participants.
Pittsburgh Sports Now has learned that Robert Morris has also been considering joining the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, and that as recently as this winter, the MAAC was seen by some in the athletics department as a better fit for RMU.
That conference, with teams in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, is made up of exclusively private schools, with endowments ranging from $32 to $388 million. The closest opponents in the MAAC would be Niagara and Canisius near Buffalo, New York.
Five of RMU’s former conference opponents are in the MAAC. Siena joined the MAAC in 1989. Marist and Rider did so in 1997. Monmouth and Quinnipiac jumped to the MAAC in 2013. The other schools in the conference are Fairfield, Iona, Manhattan and St. Peter’s.
MAAC basketball facilities range from Siena’s 15,229-seat Times Union Center to Rider’s 1,650-seat Alumni Gymnasium. The MAAC was 21st in KenPom.com‘s efficiency ranking, one better than the Horizon League. RMU would have been the fifth-best team in the league, behind Siena, St. Peter’s, Rider and Monmouth.
Robert Morris is already an affiliate member of the MAAC for women’s rowing. The MAAC also sponsors men’s and women’s lacrosse, but does not sponsor football. That conference has been playing with 11 teams since 2013.