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Ford, UAlbany set for new challenge
Bob Ford has gone through a lot of transitions during more than four decades as the football coach at UAlbany, which was a club team in 1970.
A new chapter began here Wednesday at M&T Bank Stadium, the home of the Baltimore Ravens, during the annual media day event for the Colonial Athletic Association.
The Great Danes have left the Northeast Conference and will play for the first time this season in the CAA, which produced four national title teams from 2003-08. Stony Brook, under coach and former UAlbany player Chuck Priore, will also join the CAA this season.
“It will be a great step for Stony Brook and ourselves,” said Ford, 75, who begins his 41st season with a mark of 255-159. “We are neophytes on the football scene. It is the top (Division I-AA) conference in the country.”
“This is a great conference for us to enter,” Ford added. “Our two institutions have been playing football for about 45 years. We will be playing schools that have had football for over 125 years. We do not have the rich tradition of Villanova or William & Mary.”
UAlbany was welcomed to the Richmond-based league in less than genteel Southern fashion as the Great Danes were picked to place 10th out of 11 teams here Wednesday by CAA coaches and sports information directors.
“Should be” there, Ford said his pre-season ranking.
Will Fiacchi was not swayed as no one from UAlbany was picked for the offensive or defensive preseason all-CAA teams.
“We do a good job of motivating ourselves,” said UAlbany quarterback Fiacchi, sitting at a table Wednesday. That prediction “is another vehicle to motivate us. We are just as confident as we ever have been.”
“Obviously (the CAA) is a step up from where we have been in the past,” Fiacchi added. “It doesn’t change our expectations. Our goal is to win a conference championship.”
The Great Danes return six offensive starters and five defensive starters. Last year Fiacchi completed 188 of 309 passes for 2,156 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“We have a lot of strength on the perimeter,” he said.
Last year UAlbany was 9-2 and won a share of the Northeast Conference title with a 7-1 league mark.
UAlbany suffered a setback with the loss of senior safety Justinian Mason, who tore his Achilles in a non-contact running drill about 10 days ago, according to Ford. He will miss the entire season.
Ford said in the past the program had 35 scholarships and that has been upgraded to 54, with many of the new ones going to freshmen. The CAA allows 63 scholarships, according to Ford.
“It is very difficult to win with freshmen. It will be a challenge for us for a period of time before we get our scholarship limit to where it needs to be,” Ford said.
Here is the 2013 preseason predicted order of finish with first-place votes as conducted by coaches and sports information personnel.
1. Villanova (11)
2. Towson (3)
3. New Hampshire (3)
4. Richmond (1)
5. James Madison (4)
7. Stony Brook
9. William & Mary
11. Rhode Island
By David Driver, Times Union