Founded in 1971, the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) is a group of eleven highly selective liberal arts colleges and universities that share a similar philosophy for intercollegiate athletics. The Conference was created out of a concern for the direction of intercollegiate athletic programs, and remains committed to keeping a proper perspective on the role of sport in higher education.
The formation of NESCAC originated with an agreement among Amherst College, Bowdoin College, Wesleyan University and Williams College first drafted in 1955. Along with these four institutions, Bates College, Colby College, Hamilton College, Middlebury College, Trinity College and Tufts University are sustaining charter members. Connecticut College joined in 1982, bringing the Conference's membership to its current total of 11 institutions.
NESCAC members believe intercollegiate athletic programs should operate in harmony with the educational mission of each institution. The Conference is committed to establishing common boundaries to keep athletics strong but in proportion to the overall academic mission of the member institutions. In pursuit of this mission, the Presidents of each NESCAC institution control intercollegiate athletic policy. Conference tenets are usually more restrictive than those of the NCAA Division III with regard to season length, number of contests and post-season competition.
NESCAC institutions also believe athletic teams should be representative of the entire student body. Thus, admissions and financial policies are consistent with the NCAA Division III policies that prohibit athletic scholarships and award financial aid solely on the basis of need.
In 1999, the NESCAC formally became a playing conference and now sponsors 26 conference championship sports (13 for men and 13 for women). Member schools offer extensive and broad based intercollegiate as well as club and intramural opportunities for both men and women. With member institutions sponsoring an average of nearly 30 varsity programs, NESCAC provides more than 7,500 opportunities for participation in intercollegiate competition at the Division III level. Teams and individuals have achieved great success on both a regional and national level. During the 2011-12 academic year, 55 teams participated in NCAA team championships. NESCAC student-athletes claimed 21 individual national championships and NESCAC teams won three national team championships.