NJIT: What to know about America East Conference’s newest member

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Make it 10 schools again for the America East Conference.

The league’s Board of Presidents on Friday formally elected New Jersey Institute of Technology — NJIT — as a full conference member, effective for the 2020-21 academic year, according to a press release from America East.

NJIT will officially join the league, home to the University of Vermont, as its 10th member institution on July 1. The conference said it will welcome the new addition during an online news conference on Monday.

NJIT’s move from the Atlantic Sun pushes America East to at least 10 schools for the first time since 2004-05, when Northeastern left for the Colonial Athletic Association.

“We are thrilled to welcome NJIT as America East’s 10th member institution. They will be a great addition to our league and strengthen the academic and athletic profile of our conference,” America East Commissioner Amy Huchthausen said in a statement.

The Stadium’s Jeff Goodman first reported that NJIT was headed to America East on his Twitter page Thursday.

A quick look at the Newark, N.J.-based school:

Conference history of NJIT

NJIT’s reclassification process from Division II to D-I began with men’s soccer joining the D-I ranks in 2005; women’s soccer became postseason-eligible in 2007. Most sports started to play at the D-I level in 2006 and, in 2009, the school gained full active membership in D-I.

NJIT was a member of the Great West Conference before it folded in 2013. After two years as an independent for most of its athletic teams, NJIT joined Atlantic Sun in 2015.

Meanwhile, men’s soccer was a single-sport member in the Sun Belt for two seasons before joining Atlantic Sun in 2016, women’s tennis competed in America East before the conference dropped sponsorship in 2016 and men’s lacrosse joined Northeast Conference in 2019 after spending four seasons as an independent.

In total, NJIT offers 19 varsity sports, 14 of which are sponsored by America East. Women’s lacrosse is not among NJIT’s offerings.

Enrollment at NJIT

NJIT boasts an enrollment of 8,794 undergraduates at the downtown Newark school. For comparison, UVM had 10,700 undergraduates in 2019-20.

NJIT unveiled $110 million arena in ’17

Through fundraising, student fees and bonds, NJIT built a $110 million, 220,000-square-foot arena — the NJIT Wellness and Events Center — which was unveiled in 2017.

The three-story building includes a 5,710-square-foot fitness center, an eight-lane pool and a basketball arena that holds 3,500 spectators.

Last fall, the school also opened a new outdoor multipurpose facility for men’s and women’s soccer and men’s lacrosse: Lubetkin Field at Mal Simon Stadium

Why Highlanders as a nickname?

According to the NJIT website, “Highlanders” was picked via student vote in 1949. The nickname was “chosen because NCE was located on the Highlands of Newark, where 19th and 20th centuries homes on High Street looked east upon the rivers and watched as boats came in from all over the world.”

Ties to Vermont basketball

The UVM men’s basketball team owns four decisive wins over NJIT, all coming in consecutive seasons (2007-2010) during former coach Mike Lonergan’s tenure.

In the Highlanders’ second trip to Patrick Gym, and the teams’ most-recent matchup to date, Evan Fjeld pumped in 25 points on 10 of 15 shooting in the Catamounts’ 69-50 triumph.

In addition, former UVM associate head coach Jesse Agel served three seasons on the NJIT staff from 2013-2016.

NJIT hoops once had 51-game skid

As they adjusted to life in D-I, the Highlanders men’s basketball team endured a 51-game losing streak. The 702-day skid was the longest in D-I history before it was broken in January 2009 when NJIT bested Bryant.

A decade later, NJIT compiled its best men’s hoops season, tallying 22 wins, earning a vote in the Associated Press top-25 poll and qualifying for the CIT.

Last fall, NJIT men’s soccer reached its first NCAA tournament — beating a Florida Gulf Coast team led by former Vermont coach Jesse Cormier to get there — and women’s soccer made the conference semifinals for the first time.

Contact Alex Abrami at 660-1848 or aabrami@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @aabrami5.

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