GLIAC open to new members after Northwood says it's leaving in 2022

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference is open to new members when Midland-based Northwood University leaves the Division II conference next year.

The GLIAC is at 12 members, mostly from Michigan, but will drop to the dreaded odd-number 11 when Northwood exits after completing the spring 2022 season.

Northwood announced Thursday it was leaving for Great Midwest Athletic Conference. The GMAC more aligns with Northwood's footprint, as a small, private school.

Northwood is leaving for the GMAC in 2022.

"The GLIAC appreciates the contributions Northwood University has made to the league," GLIAC commissioner Kris Dunbar said in an emailed statement to The News, while confirming the league will consider new members. "Their conference championships and record holders will remain a constant part of our history.

"We wish them the best of luck as they move to a different league."

Northwood was a founding member of the GLIAC in 1972, left the conference 1987, then rejoined in 1992.

In the GMAC, which was founded in 2011, Northwood will join Cedarville (Ohio), Findlay (Ohio), Hillsdale (Michigan), Kentucky Wesleyan, Lake Erie (Ohio), Malone (Ohio), Ohio Dominican, Ohio Valley (West Virginia), Tiffin (Ohio), Trevecca Nazarene (Tennessee), Ursuline (Ohio) and Walsh (Ohio). 

Ohio Valley is leaving the conference, which soon will be at 13 members.

Seven of the current GMAC schools are former GLIAC members, including Hillsdale.

No GMAC school has an enrollment over 5,000; most are under 2,000. Northwood's undergraduate enrollment is about 1,200. Nine GLIAC schools have undergraduate enrollments over 6,000, with two, Grand Valley State and Wayne State, over 20,000.

"We are excited about joining the GMAC in 2022," Northwood president Kent MacDonald said in a statement. "The GMAC gives our student athletes the chance to compete in a small private school conference with institutions of similar size, shared values, independent philosophy, scholarship levels and focus on a high-quality academic experience. It is a great fit for us. We believe it opens new opportunities for our student athletes, as well as increasing our Institution's footprint and reach across the country. Northwood University sees this move as a unique opportunity that aligns well with our growth plans, and we appreciate the GMAC members welcoming us."

The GMAC sponsors 23 sports, and the GLIAC 21.

The GLIAC has nine schools in Michigan, and one each in Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin. Ashland (Ohio) also is leaving the GLIAC this year, for the GMAC.

Four of the founding members of the GLIAC remain, including Saginaw Valley State, Ferris State, Grand Valley State and Lake Superior State. The GLIAC last expanded in 2017 and 2018, welcoming Davenport, Purdue Northwest and Wisconsin-Parkside.

The GLIAC boasts 49 team national titles in Division II, including five in football, four by Grand Valley State, three in women's basketball and two in men's basketball.

"(We) are committed to keeping our league in the forefront of our Midwest footprint and nationally," Dunbar said.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984