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John Carroll University leaves the OAC to join the North Coast Athletic Conference.
John Carroll University leaves the OAC to join the North Coast Athletic Conference.

John Carroll University waves goodbye to the OAC

John Carroll University joins the North Coast Athletic Conference, making an uneven numbered conference in the OAC

On Jan. 18, John Carroll University announced their departure from the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) to join the North Coast Athletic Conference in 2025.

The move has come as a surprise to many in the state of Ohio, as John Carroll has been a staple of the OAC since the 1989-90 academic year. 

John Carroll's athletics have been successful in the OAC, as they have won 190 conference championships across all sports. They will be taking their athletic and academic prowess to the North Coast Athletic Conference, which sports nine members, including four affiliate colleges and universities, all spanning across four states.

This had led to talks around the OAC about what their next move will be after the departure of John Carroll and if there will be a team added soon.

Gregory Lott, Otterbein University’s athletic director, is still getting familiarized with the conference as he was hired this last year, but says they are in no hurry to start looking for a school to fill in.

“We are not there yet; we have started discussions on if we want to stay at nine teams, or add ten, but for now there is not a set decision on which direction we are going. If it comes to it, then we might look outside of Ohio to fill in that last spot,” Lott said.

All the Ohio Athletic Conference’s teams reside in Ohio, hence the conference name, and bringing a school from outside the state would not mean the end of the conference name or image.

In NCAA Division One, conference realignment is as big as ever now and will continue to expand as more teams look for conferences that suit their needs best.

Schools such as the University of California, Stanford University and Southern Methodist University have all migrated from the crumbling Pacific Athletic Conference to the Atlantic Coastal Conference. The University of Southern California and University of California Los Angeles were the first to move to the Big Ten. These institutions are on the move for their own reasons, such as media deals and better competition among other prolific schools. John Carroll is doing the same, looking to find the conference that benefits the students and the school.

With these teams moving, they along with the same approach John Carroll is looking for the values their school holds.

Tommy Zagorski, Otterbein University's head football coach, previously coached at John Carroll from 2008-14 and says discussions about the move started when he had been coaching at the university. 

“John Carroll has been trying to find their fit in a conference and what it aligns with them. The NCAC is a prestigious academic conference, and to go along with their athletics makes them a perfect fit for what John Carroll is looking for,” Zagorski said.

John Carroll previously was a founding member of the Presidents' Athletic Conference for 34 years up until their acceptance to the OAC, so being on the move has been no stranger to them.

The relationship between John Carroll and the OAC in the future is uncertain since the move is so recent.

“I give the coaches some sort of say as to who they want to schedule for their out of conference, but we are not looking towards actively pursuing JCU (John Carroll University) to schedule games with them as it is not our top priority,” Lott said.

John Carroll will most likely try to keep their football rivalry with Baldwin Wallace intact, as they compete in the Cuyahoga Gold Bowl series; a game John Carroll has sporadically played since 1921.

Given free range with their schedule, it is unclear if John Carroll will schedule any of their sports teams to compete in the OAC, and how this transition will affect the outcome of the program.

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