Originally called the Wisconsin Conference of Independent Colleges, the Lake Michigan Conference formed in 1974 for men's intercollegiate athletics. The league had nine charter members:
- Blackhawk Technical College (Janesville, Wis.)
- Cardinal Stritch College (Milwaukee, Wis.)
- Edgewood College (Madison, Wis.)
- Gateway Technical College-Kenosha (Kenosha, Wis.)
- Gateway Technical College-Racine (Racine, Wis.)
- Maranatha Baptist Bible College (Watertown, Wis.)
- Marian College (Fond du Lac, Wis.)
- Northwestern College (Watertown, Wis.)
- St. Francis de Sales College (Milwaukee, Wis.)
Within three years, Blackhawk, Gateway-Kenosha, Gateway-Racine, and St. Francis would leave the conference, and Milwaukee School of Engineering would join. At the end of 1981, Edgewood left only to return in 1990.
In 1981, Trinity Christian College (Palos Heights, Ill.) joined, forcing the conference admistrators to change the name of the conference to its aptly named current state, a reference to the schools' proximity to the Great Lake. A year later, Lakeland College (Sheboygan, Wis.) and Concordia College (Mequon, Wis.), which changed its named to Concordia University in 1989. After a short stint, Trinity College left and was replaced by Wisconsin Lutheran College (Milwaukee, Wis.) in 1987.
Women's programs joined under the name in 1989, and the conference lost Northwestern College when it combined its campus with Martin Luther College in New Ulm, Minn.
At the end of the 1996-97 school year, the LMC joined the NCAA Division III member conference, losing Cardinal Stritch, Mount Mary and Silver Lake, who opted not to join the NCAA.