It seems to be a formality that Gannon, Mercyhurst and C.W. Post officially will accept offers to join the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference before the deadline in two weeks, but there is some concern among athletic directors of current schools how the three private schools will impact the conference's 14 public institutions.
Here's a look at the current members of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
Gannon and Mercyhurst, both located in Erie, are expected to join as full-time members and C.W. Post, in Brookville, N.Y., will be an associate member competing in football and field hockey.
C.W. Post would become the first non-Pennsylvania school in the PSAC, which will maintain its name.
"The league has broken new ground adding private schools," IUP athletic director Frank Condino said of the PSAC's first expansion since its formation in 1951. "It creates some differences, I'm not sure they are good or bad, but they could affect our competitiveness. I have many mixed feelings."
The PSAC schools are limited by league rules to the equivalency of 70 full athletic scholarships for all sports, with a maximum of 25 in football. As a member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Conference, Gannon and Mercyhurst are allowed to offer up to 36 full athletic scholarships in football.
Both Gannon and Mercyhurst give out in the 30 range, which is considerably higher than the PSAC schools.
California leads the way in the PSAC West with the equivalency of 24.7 scholarships, followed by IUP with 17, Edinboro and Slippery Rock with 15 and Clarion with 11.
"Either we'll expand out allocations," Condino said, "or limit theirs."
Slippery Rock's Paul Lueken does not think the number of football scholarships make a significant difference one way or the other.
"We've played them over the years [in a lot of sports], and they're competitive with us and we're competitive with them," he said. "I'd like to see us stay at 25 in football. If they don't come down to us, I'm not afraid to compete against them."
Lueken added after a pause, "I'm sure not all my coaches agree with me."
California's Tom Pucci said, "Private and public schools co-exist in most conferences around the country. There's no reason why we can't in the PSAC."
Clarion's Dave Katis is willing to take a wait-and-see approach.
"I'm still trying to figure out the implications of what it means to be a private school and what it means to be a public school," he said. "Let's see how it plays out."
The final decision to expand was made on the presidential level with input from the athletic directors.
"It's about time," Pucci said about expansion. "I think we felt like we had to do something particularly after the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference stole Pitt-Johnstown and Seton Hill away from us. Do I have any reservations? None whatsoever. Why would you? We'll be cutting down expenses in travel, we'll have better competition with natural rivalries and it will be great for sports like golf and tennis."
The PSAC would be able to have championships for sports such as men's golf and men's tennis, which currently have just five schools playing those sports, one under the minimum required for the league to sponsor a championship.
The addition of three schools would give the league 16 schools playing football because Mansfield dropped the sport after last season. The PSAC most likely would remain in two divisions with C.W. Post and Shippensburg, currently in the West, joining the six teams in the East and Gannon and Mercyhurst giving the West eight.
C.W. Post currently is a member of the Northeast 10 Conference in football and has no affiliation in field hockey.
"It's all good," Katis said. "Budget-wise, it really helps us so we're embracing it. We love it."
Phil Axelrod can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1967.