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Opinion: Additonal FB Expansion Could be Coming Soon to CAA
The Colonial Athletic Association will swell to 14 football schools in 2012, when Georgia State joins.
Too many? Too few? Or just right?
Rather than fret about growing too big too fast, maybe the league will say what the heck and just super-size it.
If it does, there are two schools that would be a geographic fit for the league - surely more of a fit than Georgia State. Adding them would be cost effective at a time when schools everywhere are looking to save wherever they can.
Two weeks ago, Fordham announced it would begin awarding football scholarships. Unless Fordham plans to use this to pressure the rest of the Patriot League to change its position, the school’s days of playing in the non-scholarship league are numbered.
Then there is Stony Brook, whose entrance last season into the Big South Conference in football is anything but a natural fit. The school, which competes in the America East in 19 other sports, was having difficulty scheduling in football. Now, it finds itself in a league where the closest school (VMI) is 475 miles away.
Fordham is in New York City. Stony Brook is on Long Island. If the CAA were to absorb both, a natural northern division would emerge, with the dividing line being the Big Apple.
“We are so engrossed in the Big South that we haven’t even looked at the idea of being in the CAA,” Stony Brook athletic director Jim Fiore said. “But from an economic standpoint, I have to admit it makes sense. And right now, at every school across the country the No. 1 priority is cost-saving initiatives.”
Absorb Fordham and Stony Brook and the CAA North could have those two, along with Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Northeastern, Maine, New Hampshire and Hofstra.
That would leave a CAA South with James Madison, Richmond, William and Mary, Old Dominion, Towson, Villanova, Delaware and Georgia State.
The North and South could play round-robin schedules within their divisions, with an eighth conference game coming against a team from the other division. That would give each team four home games and four away games in CAA play.
The CAA’s current plan for absorbing Georgia State calls for the Panthers to go into the North Division.
“Putting them in either the North or the South would create unacceptable situations,” CAA commissioner Tom Yeager said. “The geography obviously doesn’t line up real well with the divisional stuff.”
Putting Georgia State in the South and moving a school like Delaware or Villanova to the North would be an option, but those two schools want to stay where they are.
The league will allow the newest member to play a modified CAA schedule - four games against each division. The remainder of the league will begin playing a five-and-three mix on a rotating basis in 2012. What this eventually means is that there will come a point when a school like ODU will find itself in a two-year loop playing a schedule without one of its natural rivals - William and Mary, for example - so it can make room for Georgia State.
Georgia State’s location is also problematic because every league game with the Panthers involves a flight. A bus trip for a college football team usually costs between $10,000 and $15,000. A chartered flight for a football team costs between $60,000 and $80,000.
Given these difficulties, it seems unlikely that the CAA would have accepted Georgia State as a league member in 2005 if football was already in the school’s plans.
Now, the league is stuck with the Panthers as its far-away brother.
Fordham or Stony Brook would be a more natural fit. Fordham already has Rhode Island and ODU on its non-conference schedule this season, and Stony Brook will visit Hofstra and UMass.
“And we beat Maine two years ago and have New Hampshire on future schedules,” Fiore said.
The one factor that should not cause the league pause in considering expansion is the limit of one automatic bid to the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. That didn’t keep the Big East from expanding to 16 teams in basketball and it wouldn’t deter the CAA in football for the same reason: Both are multi-bid leagues already.
The CAA had five teams in the 16-team playoffs each of the last two seasons. Richmond, which finished third in the Southern Division in 2008, went on to win the national title.
“When we got five in two years ago, we thought is was the perfect-storm scenario,” Yeager said. “Then - oh, by the way - we did it again. When your third-place team wins the national championship pretty convincingly, that’s pretty good depth in your league.”
With the playoffs expanding to 20 teams in the near future, the CAA’s footprint in the playoffs could expand as well.
“Our league is clearly the strongest in the country,” said ODU coach Bobby Wilder, whose team joins the league in 2011. “Nobody questions that. Of the last six national championships, three have been won by CAA schools. “
Breaking off the northern teams to form a new league isn’t likely to work, either. The northern teams use the CAA’s southern schools for leverage. Northern teams will point to some of the well-funded CAA’s southern schools, like James Madison, and contend that they are at a disadvantage in recruiting. This helps their so-called arms war because it allows them pressure their own schools for more resources.
In any case, don’t be surprised if the CAA of 2012 looks much different than the one planned at the moment.
“Division I-AA football is a fluid document that changes with every year,” Fiore said. “Football is the tail that wags the conference-affiliation dog. And at the end of the day it comes down to setting yourself up for the long term.”
Additonal football expansion could be coming soon to CAA
By Rich Radford, The Virginian-Pilot