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CAA makes changes and finds new faces
The Hens and Old Dominion will square off for the final time in 2012. Delaware beat the Monarchs last year, winning 27-17.
This summer bestowed a little bit of a makeover on the CAA. One member school has left and two more are on their way out.
Virginia Commonwealth, which reached the men’s Final Four in 2011, has already joined the basketball-driven Atlantic 10. Meanwhile, at the end of the 2012-13 athletic seasons, Old Dominion will be leaving for Conference USA while Georgia State will be off to the Sun Belt Conference.
These defections appear to have little bearing on Delaware’s feelings about its conference.
“We want to be in the CAA,” head football coach K.C. Keeler said. “There’s really not a lot of good landing spots.”
For years, Delaware has been rumored to be interested in possibly moving up to the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) and losing its status as “the big fish in a small pond,” as former coach Tubby Raymond used to refer to the program. But that does not appear to be in the immediate future. Keeler said playing in the CAA has academic benefits.
“It’s not our academic mission to have our kids miss class on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,” Keeler said, referring to mid-major conferences whose schedules can be dictated by national television exposure. “We’re going to have to fly out Monday, play Tuesday night, get back late, have our kids miss class on Wednesday.”
Albany (N.Y.) and Stony Brook (N.Y.) are coming to play football in 2013 to refurbish the CAA, while Rhode Island has decided not to defect to the Northeast Conference.
“Rhode Island now has decided to stay,” Keeler said. “They can stay right up north and hop on a bus for $70,000 less to go play Stony Brook. It’s a good thing in terms of we took care of the Northeast.”
Old Dominion and Georgia State will play out their CAA schedules in all sports, but will be ineligible to compete for the conference championships this season, though they would be eligible for NCAA at-large berths.
“I don’t think our kids even realize that, and it’s something we don’t think about,” Keeler said. “When the season’s over, and they add it all up, if Old Dominion’s tied with us, we’re conference champs.”
For Samantha Huge, interim athletic director, Delaware’s athletic programs will continue to reside in the CAA for the near future. Huge feels the CAA has gotten stronger in recent months.
“I think our impetus is to be competitive and successful and win championships in a Colonial Athletic Association that has solidified further with the addition of two new teams,” Huge said. “I’m excited for the future of Delaware.”
Football is not the only sport at Delaware affected by the conference shift. Women’s basketball is also seeing a change.
One of the highlights of each season recently is the rivalry between the perennial powerhouse Old Dominion and the Hens. However, head coach Tina Martin said even with the Monarchs leaving, the team will have a tough road ahead.
“Old Dominion struggled obviously this year and fell below their normal standards,” Martin said. “They didn’t even finish in the top six in our league. For us right now, the biggest rivalry is with James Madison University this year.”
Martin said that Drexel is also a team that should not be forgotten.
“[The Dragons are] another big rival that we have right now,” Martin said. “Those two programs, with Drexel and JMU, turned into quite the battles over the last four or five years, so there’s still plenty of good basketball and teams to be rivals with.”
Martin said the CAA’s quality is something that also translates into national success.
“It’s going to be very hard, just like it was this year,” Martin said. “We went undefeated in the CAA, but it’s still going to be very competitive. James Madison made it to the finals of the women’s NIT Championship last year and beat the likes of Wake Forest, who we beat in the regular season.”
The CAA may have lost a few of its teams, but Delaware has given no indications that it would leave just yet. Keeler said that Delaware will remain in the CAA for a very long time.
“Delaware will not be the reason the CAA implodes,” Keeler said. “We want to keep this conference together.”
By Jack Cobourn, UD Review