CHICAGO – The University of Chicago announced on Monday that the varsity baseball team will join the Midwest Conference as an affiliate member starting with the 2018-19 academic year.
With affiliate membership set to officially begin on July 1, 2018, the Maroon baseball team's first season of MWC competition will be the 2019 season.
"Realigning baseball with the Midwest Conference after many years competing independently is exciting," said UChicago Director of Athletics Erin McDermott. "This will provide our baseball team with an excellent competitive experience within our region and access to post-season championships. We are grateful to the Midwest Conference members for approving our affiliate membership and to Executive Director Heather Benning for her leadership in stewarding the process."
When the MWC welcomed UChicago as an affiliate in football, Knox College President and Chair of the MWC Presidents' Council Teresa Amott commented: UChicago is a great representation of MWC ideals both in the classroom and on the playing field. She reiterated the sentiment upon extending an offer in baseball.
UChicago baseball has competed as an independent since 1997. The Maroons previously participated in the Midwest Conference as a full member from 1976-87, and the University Athletic Association from 1989-96.
The 2019 MWC baseball season will feature 10 teams in a divisional format, with an even split of five teams in both the North and South Divisions. UChicago will join the North Division. At the season's conclusion, the top two finishers in each division will be selected to the four-team, double-elimination MWC Championship Tournament. The tournament winner will receive the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA postseason.
"We are tremendously excited to be rejoining the Midwest Conference in 2019," said Head Coach John Fitzgerald. "The Midwest Conference provides a perfect fit for our baseball program and an opportunity to compete against some of the nation's top-ranked academic institutions every weekend.
"We are also very excited about the ability to significantly increase our student-athlete experience by allowing them an opportunity to compete for conference championships and for the first time in 30 years, experience the excitement of a 'pennant race,'" he continued. "The ability to provide our players with those tangible experiences and goals will significantly increase their experience as baseball players at the University of Chicago. The level of competition and success that the conference has attained in recent years will strengthen our schedule and provide a phenomenal opportunity for our players and fans."
UChicago will continue to participate as a full member of the University Athletic Association. The Maroons are currently affiliate members of the Midwest Conference in football, and the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) in women's lacrosse.
The 2017 Maroons posted a 22-15 overall record and had three players earn All-Region honors from the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA). Fitzgerald enters his fourth season as head coach at UChicago.
The Midwest Conference's membership includes 10 private, liberal arts colleges and universities in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin: Beloit College, Cornell College, Grinnell College, Illinois College, Knox College, Lake Forest College, Lawrence University, Monmouth College, Ripon College and St. Norbert College.