CENTERVILLE, Mass. – For the first time in program history, Western New England University is predicted to repeat New England Football Conference division and league championships in 2012 after a vote of the NEFC's 16 head coaches, it was announced on Thursday.
Western New England, which went 10-2 overall (7-0 NEFC) and qualified for the NCAA Division III playoffs for the first time ever last season, totaled 58 points to edge Endicott and Salve Regina with 54 points apiece for the Boyd Division title and received four first-place votes to capture the conference championship in the annual preseason poll.
"The results of this poll illustrates just how competitive this conference is," said WNE football coach Keith Emery, who has led the Golden Bears to a 19-4 mark the last two of his eight seasons at the helm. "It should make for an interesting and exciting season in 2012."
The Golden Bears, who report to preseason camp on Saturday, are expected to return 66 players from the 2011 record-setting squad (10 wins, 7 NEFC victories against no losses, first-ever conference and division crowns) and welcome over 75 newcomers.
This season marks the final year of the current conference alignment as current members of the multi-sport Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference – Bridgewater State University, Fitchburg State University, Framingham State University, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Westfield State University, and Worcester State University, plus Plymouth State University and University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth – will compete in a newly formed MASCAC football league. The remaining members will continue under the same conference moniker and retain the NEFC's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Championship.
In the Bogan Division, Framingham and Bridgewater tied for the top spot with 58 points each. Other schools vying for NEFC supremacy include Salve Regina and Framingham, both receiving four votes, Bridgewater (3) and Worcester (1).
According to the NEFC, the balloting for the divisions was based on a point system with eight points awarded for a first-place pick descending to one point for an eighth-place selection. Each coach ranked teams only in his own division (including his own), and each coach was asked to pick the eventual conference champion.
Division play begins the weekend of Sept. 21, with the final NEFC Championship game to be played on Nov. 10 at the site of the Bogan Division winner. WNE opens the season Sept.1 on the road at Norwich.
BOGAN DIVISION BOYD DIVISION
1. Framingham, 58 points Western New England, 58 points
2. Bridgewater, 58 Endicott, 54
3. Westfield, 41 Salve Regina, 54
4. Worcester, 38 UMass Dartmouth, 34
5. Massachusetts Maritime, 32 Curry, 30
6. Maine Maritime, 28 MIT, 24
7. Coast Guard, 21 Plymouth, 21
8. Fitchburg, 12 Nichols, 11
2011 Standings: http://newenglandfootballconference.com/seasons/2011/standings-div