In its 23rd year of excellence on and off the field, the Centennial Conference is one of the nation's elite small college conferences.
On June 4, 1981, Keith Spalding, president of Franklin & Marshall College, made the announcement that "eight private colleges found it timely and appropriate to form a round-robin football schedule among institutions with similar attitudes and practices in intercollegiate football competition." With that statement, the Centennial Conference was born.
From 1983-92, the eight private colleges - Dickinson College, Franklin & Marshall College, Gettysburg College, Johns Hopkins University, Muhlenberg College, Swarthmore College, Ursinus College and Western Maryland (now McDaniel) College - participated in a football-only conference. Because of the success in operating the Centennial Football Conference, the presidents began to study the feasibility of an all-sports conference early in 1991. The presidents received a positive report from an ad hoc committee in March 1992, which also recommended that Bryn Mawr College, Haverford College and Washington College be invited to join as charter members.
On April 29, 1992, Gordon A. Haaland, president of Gettysburg College and acting chairman of the committee of the original eight presidents, announced the expansion of the Conference to an all-sports conference. He also announced that Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Washington had accepted the invitations to become charter members.
A purpose and mission statement adopted by the presidents stated, "recognizing that our fundamental purpose is the academic mission of institutions, we agree to establish an all-sports conference in the spirit of rationalizing our competition by controlling travel, schedule and costs. The Conference will be controlled by the presidents of the member institutions."
The Centennial Conference encourages athletic competition among national liberal arts colleges and universities that share similar academic aspirations and a commitment to the importance of the total educational experience of students engaged in sports. Intercollegiate athletics programs are an integral part of the life of the member institutions and flow from their educational objectives. Each institution provides a comprehensive, broad-based athletics program. All varsity sports are treated equitably, and every sport is important.
The Centennial Conference crowns champions in 24 sports and continues to sponsor intercollegiate programs of national prominence for women and men. Soccer, basketball, lacrosse and track and field are just four of the sports in which Centennial schools have been synonymous with national excellence. On the average, Centennial members boast of 21 varsity teams per campus, which is well above the national norm.
An early morning workout on the Schuylkill River for Bryn Mawr's crews; the nine Conference football titles won by Dickinson; the beauty of Franklin & Marshall's aquatic center; the historic battlefield surrounding Gettysburg's athletic facilities; the speed, stamina and strength of Haverford's cross country/track teams; events at Johns Hopkins' storied Homewood Field; the scenic beauty of a fall football afternoon on The Hill at McDaniel; basketball games at Muhlenberg's famed Memorial Hall; the traditional excellence of Swarthmore's tennis teams; the history of Ursinus' women's programs; the tradition and excitement surrounding Washington College lacrosse. These are just some of the elements that have helped the Centennial Conference foster a wonderful, rare spirit of competition, excellence and camaraderie for athletes, spectators, and alumni.
In 2014-2015, Centennial teams and individuals qualified for national Division III championship competition in all 24 sports. The Conference has had 10 teams win NCAA titles - Washington College men's lacrosse (1998) and men's tennis (1994, 1997), Ursinus College field hockey (2006), Franklin & Marshall College (2007, 2009) and Gettysburg College (2011) women's lacrosse teams and Johns Hopkins women’s cross country team (2012-2013-14). Fifty-eight students earned All-America recognition, including 10 who were selected to the first team.
The Centennial Conference is also equally proud of its student-athletes' accomplishments in the classroom. In 2014-15, 17 athletes were named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America teams, including six first-team selections, while four others were awarded NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarships.