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CAA presidents remain committed to league, move closer to replacing departing members
Schools will get to keep more of what they earn, and it will cost seven figures to leave the Colonial Athletic Association in the future, league presidents decided at their annual meeting Tuesday.
The presidents delved into expansion candidates and scenarios. They also made a decision on whether departing schools could compete for conference championships, but commissioner Tom Yeager said clarification of details will delay that particular announcement by a day or two.
“It was a very positive and committed group,” Yeager said Wednesday. “The feeling was, yes, we’ve had people leave, but we have a tremendous program going on. They’re excited about the future. They’re excited about the institutions that have expressed interest about becoming members of the CAA. A very positive meeting, very productive.”
All 11 remaining institutions were represented — VCU’s departure for the Atlantic 10 Conference was accelerated for 2012-13 — and eight presidents attended.
Representatives from Old Dominion and Georgia State attended the first part of the meeting and stated their cases for being allowed to participate in CAA team championship events, as they transition out of the league during the coming school year. They were then excused.
Present conference bylaws prohibit schools that are leaving from competing for team conference titles, a product of the 2001 departures of Richmond, American and East Carolina.
Yeager said that the presidents decided on the requests by ODU and Georgia State, but wouldn’t reveal their vote. He wouldn’t discuss the details in question because he said that would tip off the decision.
Expansion was a primary topic, and he said that much of the research and vetting has been done. He expects announcements to trickle out over the next several weeks, as various schools and their governing boards sign off on invitations.
Yeager said that there is no target number of schools, either for full membership or football only.
“We’re looking for quality over quantity,” he said. “We’ve had more than enough institutions that have expressed interest (in joining) to fill every known slot, and then some. The target is more on quality, and we’ll adjust as we see what’s an attractive membership total.”
That said, a priority in football is an eight-game conference schedule. After next season, there will be just eight football schools, with the departures of ODU and Georgia State to FBS conferences and Rhode Island, which is going to the Northeast Conference.
“Quantity becomes a little bit more important there because we’re at the (minimum) margin,” Yeager said. “The way things are going, you don’t want to have to keep re-inventing the league every year, if people are coming and going.”
The presidents also voted to raise the exit fee from $250,000 to $1 million, and they approved a change to the revenue distribution formula that the athletic directors discussed and recommended coming out of their recent meetings.
Yeager said that the revised revenue distribution plan will put 60 percent of NCAA tournament money into what’s called the “excellence” pool and 40 percent into the general distribution fund. Those numbers had been reversed.
Schools get access to the “excellence” pool, basically, through performance: a winning non-conference record; placing in the top 100 in the Ratings Percentage Index; a regular season title; NIT berth; and obviously, an NCAA berth and victories in the tournament.
Yeager said that the presidents reached no decision on possible CAA affiliate membership for four ODU sports that Conference USA doesn’t sponsor: wrestling, field hockey, women’s lacrosse and men’s swimming. He said that new members will have a say on that issue.
The presidents also signed off on the creation and start-up funding for a CAA digital network through the league’s new media partner, the NBC Sports Group. Yeager said the initial pricetag is probably in the $200,000 range.
He also said that the money being left on the table by VCU, Old Dominion and Georgia State — VCU is leaving approximately $5 million by itself — will defray costs and could help all schools improve the technology for video. Every CAA basketball game next season, he said, could be available on the new digital platform.
Yeager said that one of his primary takeaways from Tuesday’s meeting was the enthusiasm for a league that some people believed was in dire straits after the rapid-fire departures of two of its signature members — VCU and Old Dominion.
“There wasn’t any in-fighting or anything like that,” Yeager said. “Everybody is, I think, on the same page and ready to move forward and move forward aggressively.”