The women's hockey era at Niagara appears to be over.
The university issued a press release today, saying that they have restructured the atheltics department.
"The restructuring includes the addition of women's track and field as a varsity program and the immediate contraction of the women's ice hockey program," the release said. "In addition, money will be invested into the women's lacrosse program to meet the standards outlined by the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference."
Here's the background:
In December, the MAAC had its meeting of the Council of Presidents where they approved a five-year strategic plan. That plan included an emphasis on lacrosse.
"Another major component of the strategic plan is to elevate men's and women's lacrosse to core sports beginning in 2014-15. At that time, the league's members will begin a multi-year plan to increase funding for lacrosse, which will include an increase in full-time coaching positions and scholarships."
Niagara has women's lacrosse, but not men's lacrosse. It appears the restructuring was at least in part to address the needs of upgrading its women's lacrosse program to comply with upcoming MAAC standards. The Purple Eagles finished 2-11-1 overall, 1-5-0 in the MAAC. They are 1-4 to start this season.
The women's hockey team had fallen on hard competitive times (they went 10-16-8 overall, 3-6-3 in College Hockey America this season) they did go to the Frozen Four in 2002 and already have the infrastructure. Hockey, however, is one of the more expensive sports to maintain.
That leaves Division III Buffalo State as the only collegiate varsity program in Western New York.
Niagara will begin competing in track and field in the 2013-14 season. There are six other schools in the MAAC which have track and field -- Saint Peter's, Manhattan, Iona, Rider, Loyola and Marist. In Western New York, all local schools have a cross country program, but only the University at Buffalo and Buffalo State have track and field programs.
--- Amy Moritz