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The Patriot League is a conference participating in the NCAA's Division I, with member institutions in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. It was established in 1986 as the football-only Colonial League, and adopted its current name in 1990, the same time that it began sponsoring other sports, including basketball.

The conference was originally an initiative of the Ivy League. In 1980, the Ivies expanded their football schedule to 10 games (which they maintain to this day). Because the Ivy League then (as now) prohibited athletic scholarships, the members sought to create a new conference made up of non-scholarship Division I-AA (now Division I FCS) football programs to provide them with a secure group of nonconference opponents at a similar competitive level. The result was the Colonial League, founded with six members, five of which remain in today's Patriot League. Of the charter members, the only one no longer in the league is Davidson, which dropped out after the first football season due to travel concerns, lack of competitiveness, and a reluctance to stop awarding basketball scholarships if the league expanded into other sports.

In 1990, the conference added two more members and began sponsoring non-football sports, adding another member a year later. Its current membership of 10 was reached in 2013.

The biggest changes to the league have been in scholarship policy. Army and Navy have always awarded scholarships, but not on an athletic basis. Since both institutions are operated by the U.S. government for the training of future officers in the armed forces, all students receive federally-funded full scholarships whether or not they play on an NCAA sports team. Basketball scholarships for both men and women were introduced with the freshman recruiting class of 1996. When American, a non-football school that awarded scholarships in all of its sports, joined in 2001, the league began allowing scholarships in all non-football sports, although all members remain free to award (or not award) scholarships as they see fit, subject to NCAA and certain conference limits. Lafayette was the last scholarship holdout, not awarding them until the freshman class of 2006. Many members do not award scholarships in several of their sports; for example, Bucknell awarded scholarships only in basketball until the conference began allowing football scholarships in 2013. Even with scholarships now allowed, the Patriot League takes great pains to assure that its athletes are academically similar to the student body at large. Since its formation, it has used a tool called an "academic index", based on high school grade point averages and standardized test scores, to ensure this goal. (The Ivy League uses a very similar metric to regulate admission of student-athletes.)

Current members

Former members

  • Fordham (1990–1995; has maintained football-only membership to this day)

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