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FCS Conferences Still Worried, Even After Exhaling
Tom Yeager kept waiting for “the big earthquake” to hit.
The commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association was referring to the conference realignment that threatened recently to shake up the NCAA Division I ranks.
After Colorado hopped from the Big 12 to the Pac-10 and Nebraska bolted from the Big 12 to the Big Ten, conference commissioners across the land held their breaths, waiting to see what Texas would do.
When Texas passed on the Pac-10 to remain in the Big 12, everyone exhaled.
“For a moment, it looked like the universe would shift,” Yeager said. “There was great concern. How it plays out remains to be seen. But if something is still to happen, I see it as chances and opportunities rather than losses.”
Yeager witnessed the CAA’s “seismic shift” in 2001, when Richmond, East Carolina and American bolted from the league, leaving the CAA with six teams. Instead of folding, the CAA picked up Hofstra, Delaware, Drexel and Towson the following season.
Having gone through that, Yeager said he had a lot of sympathy for Big 12 officials the past two weeks.
“Moves were averted and things stabilized, just when it looked like it could have been a mess.”
Yeager said the recent shake-up was high on everybody’s discussion list when he attended last week’s College Commissioners Association conference in San Francisco. The group represents all 31 Division I athletic conferences.
Yeager said the biggest concern for many Football Championship Subdivision conferences stems from the possibility that some of the marquee FCS schools might want to move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“If a conference decided to grab an FCS team to fill, then we’d be dealing with aftershocks,” Yeager said. “A lot of the movement involved the West Coast and the Midwest. I could see some conference coming in and taking, say, Montana to fill a void.”
Wood Selig, set to take over as athletic director at Old Dominion at the end of June, said the shifting of the landscape could mean “a chance for certain I-AA (FCS) teams to bubble up to the I-A level with the right invitation. And some schools might be redefining their long-range goals with the new information at hand.”
“Other schools may see the changing landscape as a chance to return to their roots,” Selig said. “Maybe some schools decide it’s time to move from I-A to I-AA because it fits them better. They might be at the point where they throw their hands up and decide it’s not worth it to compete with other institutions that are better funded for big-time athletics.”
Selig said the conversations swelled when CAA officials met in Hilton Head, S.C., two weeks ago.
“There was a lot of non-official, conference-time conversation,” Selig said. “All of that moving and shaking was going on while we were meeting down there. It was only natural we’d talk about it.
“When you look at it, the CAA is a group of I-AA football schools that might qualify for I-A under the guidelines if they felt it was the right thing to do.
“It puts the question on the table: What do we want to be?”
By Rich Radford,The Virginian-Pilot