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LIU embarks on its combined Division I sports journey

The new LIU football helmet.

The new LIU football helmet. Credit: Newsday/Kenny DeJohn

The Sharks are in the water. As August rolls into its final week, Long Island University is set to attack its first season as a consolidated Division I athletic program. The university announced last October that its Post and Brooklyn campuses, previously two separate athletic entities, would combine into one program beginning this fall.

Gone are the Pioneers and Blackbirds — old nicknames with rich histories. Teams will now be known as the ‘LIU Sharks,’ with powder blue and gold color scheme. All teams will compete in the NCAA’s Division I Northeast Conference. The football team will play in FCS — the Football Championship Subdivision — the lower of the NCAA’s two Division I tiers.

 “To play (Division I) is the goal of every athlete,” said Athanasios Coutroumpas, who competed on Post's Division II soccer team  last year. “No one is expecting anything for the first season, but we still want to win whatever we can win. Our goal is to win the conference, even if it’s the first year of DI.”  

When the move was announced, the school said it will honor all of its current scholarship athletes, including those that did not make the 2019-20 roster.

LIU’s Brookville campus will be the main hub for the fall season. Football, men’s and women’s cross country, equestrian, field hockey, men’s and women’s golf, women’s rugby, women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s soccer will all be headquartered there. Women’s swimming and women’s volleyball will compete in Brooklyn.

“It’s good so far,” said  Emily Poole, who played on the Division I soccer team in Brooklyn last year. “It’s a bit of an adjustment. We all really loved the city. There was just a different atmosphere there, but since we’ve moved everyone has just been really welcoming and we’re settling in really well, so it’s good.”

“It’s not too far, but it’s a world of difference,” said women’s soccer coach Eleri Earnshaw, who coached in Brooklyn last season and still lives there. “…(The Brooklyn campus) is urban. It’s an enclosed campus in one city block. The buildings go up, as opposed to out. It’s a very different atmosphere. I still live in the city, so coming here every day is a nice break. They’re obviously bigger facilities here and more opportunities to expand. We’re excited about it.”

Teams are generally composed of a combination of returning Division I athletes who played at the Brooklyn campus and Division II athletes who played in Brookville, along with transfers and freshmen. That general structure, however, excludes football. LIU Brooklyn dropped football after the 1940 season.

Medford native Kelsey Wright, who played for the Post women’s soccer team last year and made the move to Division I, said she thought the opportunity to play at the highest level was one she couldn’t pass up. Wright is among 13 Division II returners on the team. Seven players return from the Division I program, Earnshaw said.

“We’re excited,” said Wright. “The practicing has been more intense and more intriguing for all of us. Just getting together and playing with a new team has been interesting. It’s fun and exciting. Preparing ourselves for the next level is easier than we thought. The new team is definitely helping us.”

The women’s soccer season kicks off on Aug. 23 at the University of San Diego. They play their first five games on the road before facing NJIT in Brookville on Sept. 13. The men’s soccer team opens the regular season against Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virginia on Aug. 30. Their home opener comes against Saint Joseph’s on Sept. 7. The football team will play a 10-game season, primarily on the road. The football Sharks play at South Dakota State on Sept. 7 and play the first of three home games on Sept. 21 against Sacred Heart.

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