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CAA Teams Feeling Better
A meeting with the commissioner addresses travel concerns for four New England schools.
Tom Yeager, the Colonial Athletic Association commissioner, traveled to Boston this week to bridge the gap with the athletic directors at the universities of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island following the loss of two Northeast football programs.
Northeastern and Hofstra dropped their 70-plus-year-old programs on Nov. 23 and Dec. 3, respectively, leaving the remaining members of the North Division increasingly isolated from the Southern-heavy conference.
Ultimately the Monday meeting quelled fears that the New England schools would have to fend for themselves, either by finding another school or two to join the league, or by leaving to protect their interests.
“There was no alarm. No emergency contingency plans,” said New Hampshire AD Marty Scarano. “We talked about the near future, the distant future. Tom pointed out how we are the best-branded, the strongest and most visible league at this level of football.
“There’s great value for all of us. I got the sense we’re all in this together from Richmond to Orono. I think it was appreciated and I think necessary that he came up to meet with us.”
The chief concern of the New England schools is financial. Losing Hofstra and Northeastern on the schedule translates to losing bus trips to Long Island and Boston that will be replaced by more costly flights to schools farther away. That could mean an added $100,000 a year in travel costs during a time when the financial burden of sports has been questioned.
“It was good to have everyone in the room,” said Maine AD Blake James. “There’s obviously been a change in the Northern Division. And it was good to bring everyone together. We’re committed to putting the program in a situation to be successful.”
Next year the 10 remaining teams in the league will continue to play eight conference games – four home, four away. The schedule is nearly complete.
“We’re in the process of tweaking it,” said Yeager, who is based in Richmond, Va. “I’ve had it done about four times.”
Yeager said the group discussed possible division re-alignment after 2011 when Old Dominion joins, making 11 teams, or in 2012 when Georgia State joins the CAA, bringing the league back up to 12 teams.
Continuing with one division also was discussed.
“We obviously can’t move Maine any closer to Philly or Virginia. It is what it is,” said Yeager. “But maybe there’s ways to come up with something that everyone’s got a stake in.”
Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said he’s eager to continue hearing how important it is that the four keep playing in the top league in the country for Football Championship Subdivision football.
“It’s a tremendous challenge playing in this conference but one you want,” said Cosgrove. “I’m really excited about the support we’re getting at a very needed time. When the value of football has been questioned at two other institutions it’s not being questioned (at UMaine).”
Though no specific plan came out of the meeting, both sides left feeling some peace of mind and closer to a solution.
“I think everyone came away with a certain comfort level,” said Yeager, who met the ADs at a Boston hotel.
“It was really just an opportunity to sit down and just talk. There wasn’t really any agenda beyond that.”
CAA teams feeling better
By JENN MENENDEZ, The Portland Press Herald (ME)