Robert Morris To Join Horizon League
RMU announced in a press conference Monday at the UPMC Events Center that the Department of Athletics will join the Horizon League as the Horizon League Board of Directors approved the university's application for membership.
Beginning July 1, 2020, the Horizon League will have 12 members, including Cleveland State University (Cleveland, Ohio), the University of Detroit Mercy (Detroit, Mich.), the University of Illinois at Chicago (Chicago, Ill.), Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (Indianapolis, Ind.), Northern Kentucky University (Highland Heights, Ky.), Oakland University (Rochester, Mich.), Purdue University Fort Wayne (Fort Wayne, Ind.), Robert Morris, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (Green Bay, Wisc.), University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Milwaukee, Wisc.), Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio) and Youngstown State University (Youngstown, Ohio).
In the Horizon League, the Colonials will compete in men's and women's soccer, volleyball, women's cross country and indoor and outdoor track & field, men's and women's basketball, men's golf and softball.
"This is the next great step forward for our student-athletes and a great day in the history of Robert Morris University," RMU President Dr. Chris Howard said. "We are excited for the excellent competition that awaits in the Horizon League and for the opportunities it presents for the university."
From its fertile beginning as a men's basketball junior college powerhouse to one of the most multi-faceted athletic programs in the Pittsburgh region, over the last 44 years Robert Morris has claimed 51 conference regular-season championships and 52 league tournament titles. A total of 14 of RMU's intercollegiate athletic programs have earned at least one tournament championship, with men's basketball leading the way with nine.
"We are excited for the opportunity to become members of the Horizon League," Robert Morris Vice President and Director of Athletics Chris King '94 said. "Aligning ourselves with a nationally recognized and well-branded conference such as the Horizon League positions our athletics department to continue to gain national exposure for RMU.
"RMU is excited to collaborate with our Horizon League members to meet established conference goals and to actively contribute to broad-based initiatives that serve to grow the Horizon League on both a regional and national level," said King. "We are excited about this next chapter, creating new rivalries and continuing the forward momentum of RMU athletics. I'm confident RMU, located in one of the country's most passionate sports cities, will not only be a strong and valued member of the conference athletically, but will also enhance the reputation of the conference through the addition of a national ranking institution with student-athletes who excel academically, athletically and in life."
RMU opened the UPMC Events Center, a state-of-the-art 4,000-seat venue, in grand fashion May 3, 2019, and four days later formally introduced King as Vice President and Director of Athletics. In the first year in the new facility in 2019-20, both the Robert Morris volleyball and women's basketball programs claimed Northeast Conference (NEC) regular-season championships, while the men's and women's basketball programs each won NEC Tournament championships to earn automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament.
"We are excited to welcome Robert Morris University to the Horizon League family," Horizon League Commissioner Jonathan B. LeCrone said. "The Colonials align with the Horizon League's mission, vision and core values. Their addition brings competitive potential, especially in men's basketball, the engaged and vital communities of Moon Township and Greater Pittsburgh, and membership diversity. Their addition positions the Horizon League perfectly for the future."
Since 1982, Robert Morris has sent 32 teams to the NCAA Tournament. Men's basketball has earned nine automatic bids, while women's basketball has claimed seven. The RMU men's basketball program qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 1982, 1983, 1989, 1990, 1992, 2009, 2010, 2015 and 2020, while women's basketball has qualified for the NCAA Tournament seven times (2007, 2008, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020) in the last 14 years.
The RMU men's basketball program has appeared in a postseason tournament nine times in the last 13 years. In addition to earning automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament four times (2009, 2010, 2015, 2020), the Colonials have appeared in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) on three occasions (2008, 2013, 2014) and have played twice in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament (2012, 2019). In 2013, Robert Morris was at the center of the college basketball world when it defeated defending national champion Kentucky, 59-57, in front of 3,444 fans at the Charles L. Sewall Center in the first round of the 2013 NIT. The Colonials also defeated St. John's, 89-78, in the first round of the 2014 NIT.
In the last 14 seasons, the RMU women's basketball program has appeared in a postseason tournament 10 times. In addition to each of its seven automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament (2007, 2008, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2019, 2020) during that span, the Colonials have played in the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) twice (2010, 2018) and the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) once (2012).
The Robert Morris volleyball program made five consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament from 1999 to 2003 before earning an automatic bid in 2015. The RMU men's soccer program has appeared in the NCAA Tournament three times (1993, 1994, 2005), while men's golf (2015, 2019) and men's lacrosse (2018, 2019) have emerged in a pair. Softball (2005), men's ice hockey (2014) and women's ice hockey (2017) have also earned automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament. The RMU men's hockey program competes in Atlantic Hockey, while the women's hockey team competes in College Hockey America (CHA).
RMU's women's track & field program claimed NEC indoor championships in both 1998 and 2000, while individually two former student-athletes competed in the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships and another pair were crowned ECAC Champions. Stephanie Kuhn (2004-07) competed in the javelin at the NCAA championships in 2004 and 2007, while Rachael Kotula (2010-14) also competed in the javelin in 2013. Former sprinter Genita Dickey (1997-2001) claimed the 2001 ECAC Championship in the 100-meter hurdles, while former Robert Morris student-athlete Bethany Ledford (2011-15) did the same in the pole vault in 2014.
"We have been proud members of the Northeast Conference for many years, and we are extremely thankful for the leadership that has been provided by the NEC board of directors and Commissioner Noreen Morris," Howard said. "RMU has valued our relationship with the NEC over the years, and the NEC has provided a platform for growth of our athletics programs. We are both grateful for and proud of the affiliation we have shared in the NEC."
The Horizon League has made a splash on the national stage in multiple sports, including two appearances in the NCAA Men's Basketball National Championship Game. In addition, seven men's basketball programs have advanced to the Sweet 16. On the women's side, Green Bay punched their ticket to the NCAA Women's Basketball Sweet 16 in 2011. In men's soccer, the League has accumulated eight victories in the NCAA Tournament, including an Elite Eight appearance by UIC in 2007. This past season, for the third time in League history, two volleyball programs appeared in the NCAA Tournament. At the next level, 23 men's basketball student-athletes have been selected in the NBA Draft, including seven since 2010.
Founded June 16, 1979, as the Midwestern City Conference with six charter members, the Horizon League celebrated its 41st season of operation in 2019-20. The conference sponsors competition in 19 sports, including nine for men (baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, swimming and diving, indoor and outdoor track & field and tennis) and 10 for women (basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, indoor and outdoor track & field, tennis and volleyball).
The Horizon League is headquartered in Indianapolis, Ind., the "Amateur Sports Capital of the World," with offices in the J.F. Wild Building. League member institutions are located throughout the Midwest's major metropolitan cities with 10 schools in the top 70 media marks. The League reaches nearly 11.5 million homes, consisting of over 10 percent of the United States.
Academically, the Horizon League names nearly 1,900 student-athletes to its Academic Honor Roll each season for carrying a grade point average of 3.20 or better. In program history, Robert Morris has had 11 student-athletes named an Academic All-American according to the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
Setter Whitney Brown of the Robert Morris volleyball program was named to the 2019 CoSIDA Academic All-America Second Team, becoming the third female student-athlete to garner the accolade as well as the second volleyball student-athlete and first member of the junior class. A two-time CoSIDA Academic All-District 2 honoree, Brown carries a perfect 4.00 cumulative grade point average as a biology major.
Brown's exploits in the classroom are part of an RMU athletic department that established a new record for average GPA during the 2019-20 academic year, as the 16 intercollegiate programs combined for a 3.476 GPA. A total of 15 of the 16 programs at Robert Morris posted team GPAs of 3.00 or higher, led by volleyball (3.894).