The Midwest Conference has announced that the University of Chicago will join the league as an affiliate member for football beginning with the 2017 season.
This was originally reported nearly a year ago, when it was announced Chicago and Wash U were leaving the Southern Athletic Association, their 2015 and 2016 home. At that time, it was announced Wash U will be joining the CCIW in football in 2018.
UChicago football returns to a familiar league from its past as the Maroons competed within the MWC from 1976-87.
"We are proud to have the University of Chicago rejoin the Midwest Conference as a football affiliate member,” said Knox president and MWC Presidents’ Council chair Teresa Amott. “The University of Chicago athletic program embodies the MWC ethos of excellence in academics and athletics and will represent the MWC ably, both on and off the field."
“Returning to the Midwest Conference in football is a terrific outcome in achieving our goal of providing an excellent competitive experience in a regional conference for our football team,” said UChicago athletic director Erin McDermott. “Although this agreement requires ending some long-term competitive UAA rivalries, we look forward to reuniting Midwest ones. We will play a consistently competitive schedule within a philosophically aligned conference, with the champion earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“We thank executive director Heather Benning and the Midwest Conference members; we are honored and excited to be a Midwest Conference affiliate member in football.”
Beginning in 2017, Chicago will become the MWC’s 12th institution that sponsors football. The league will be comprised of 10 full-member schools and football-affiliate member Macalester. The MWC will return to a divisional format with six teams in the North Division and six teams in the South Division; Chicago is scheduled to join the North Division for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. The winners of the North and South Divisions then play each other for the conference title, with an automatic bid into the NCAA postseason on the line.
In 2016, the Midwest Conference has 11 football-playing members and will compete in one division, without a title game.
“We are thrilled to be rejoining the Midwest Conference,” said Maroons coach Chris Wilkerson. “The Midwest Conference is an excellent fit for UChicago football. It is a highly competitive league featuring some of the country's best institutions. We are excited about the quality experience that our football student-athletes will receive while participating in our new league. We will enjoy a competitive schedule year in and year out, and have the opportunity to earn a conference title and berth into the NCAA postseason. At the same time, the locations of the schools will allow us to minimize travel time for our student-athletes. Moving to the Midwest Conference, with its strong history and tradition, makes sense for our future goals as a program.”
The Maroons compiled a 6-4 overall record during the 2015 season. Entering his fourth year as UChicago’s head coach, Wilkerson has led the team to a three-year record of 20-9 (.690 winning percentage) and a 2014 UAA title.