By Bob RyanBOSTON, Feb. 14, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Legendary Boston sportswriter Bob Ryan writes about UMass Lowell and the America East Conference. This column can be posted and republished. What do we have here? Could it be? Nah. Impossible. But wait. It might actually be true. What a shock! In this day and age there is an NCAA-affiliated multi-sport (hockey being an exception) conference that really makes sense. Welcome to the America East! OK, it's not the only one. The Ivy League certainly makes sense, and so does the Patriot League. But we live in a circumstance in which the Big Boys are all in mad pursuit of the football dollar. It is also a time in which the Atlantic-10 has 16 teams, the Big Ten has 12, the Big 12 has 10, what does West Virginia have in common with Oklahoma State, and is Boulder, Colo. anywhere near the Pacific Ocean?? Then there's the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), which up to now has allowed itself to stretch from Ruston, La. to Seattle (it's currently in re-alignment to something a bit more geographically coherent). In the midst of all this abrogation of geography, tradition and just plain common sense, we present to you the nine-team America East, which runs vertically from Burlington, Vt. to Baltimore, Md. And which has striven since its inception to group institutions who feel comfortable with each other in every way. "We're the Conference That Makes Sense." That is not America East's official motto, but it very well could be. The America East is currently comprised of the following nine schools: Stony Brook, Vermont, Boston University, Albany, New Hampshire, Maine, Binghamton, Hartford and Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC). Dr. Sam Stanley is Chair of the America East Board of Presidents, and the Stony Brook University President wholeheartedly endorses the premise that the America East Conference makes sense. "Absolutely," he says. "I agree totally."