NORTH ANDOVER — Christopher Hopey said he was told when he was hired as Merrimack College’s president that the board of trustees wanted big changes.
Eight years later, there have been a few.
Merrimack has more than doubled enrollment from 1,700 students to 4,600. It created a graduate school. The Lawler Arena and Volpe Complex were renovated. Merrimack’s ranking improved from 174th in U.S. News & World Report to one of the 10 “most transformative” institutions identified by the magazine. And a Dunkin Donuts franchise opened on campus.
Yesterday Hopey added another notch: Merrimack athletics are moving to Division I.
The Northeast Conference and its presidents announced their acceptance of Merrimack as the 11th member beginning in the fall of 2019. Per NCAA rules, Merrimack will go through a four-year reclassification period in which its athletes are not allowed play in Division I tournament events.
Moving up from Division II was something Hopey said he had considered since he was hired.
“We don’t see ourselves as a small Catholic school any more,” he said. “We see ourselves now as a regional Catholic school, like Boston College, Providence, Holy Cross and Sacred Heart. And moving to Division I in athletics is part of that plan.”