UTICA, NY (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) — The shakeup in the Empire 8 Conference continues, as yet another college will be joining local teams Utica and Hartwick next season.

The Alfred State Pioneers will be joining the Empire 8 in football, beginning in the 2025-26 season, moving from the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference. The Pioneers are in their sixth season in Division III and competed in the New England Bowl in 2021 after a 6-4 season. They lost that game to UMass Dartmouth, 42-16.

“Alfred State is a great addition to Empire 8 football,” Empire 8 Commissioner Chuck Mitrano said in a statement. “They have a competitive program with strong leadership at all levels and fit perfectly in our footprint. We are happy to welcome them to the Empire 8.”

The Pioneers will also join Hilbert College as a new affiliate member of the Empire 8, joining fellow Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC) member Hilbert College, who will join the conference in 2024. SUNY Brockport and SUNY Geneseo are also expected to join the conference as full members next year.

“I am very excited to join the Empire 8,” Alfred State Head Football Coach Scott Linn said in a statement. “This is a great opportunity for us to both compete with some of the best teams in the region and country, and also to continue to grow our program.”

The Pioneers currently sponsor 19 other Division III sports, most of them competing in the AMCC.