Colonial Athletic Association commish Tom Yeager said that CAA member schools probably would listen to a pitch from East Carolina for partial membership, if the Pirates don’t receive full Big East Conference membership.
“They were a charter member for 16 years, and the only reason they left was for football,” Yeager said this weekend, while attending Old Dominion’s football playoff game in Norfolk. “They would bring value in a number of sports, and they certainly fit the geographic footprint. It’s not like they’re some outpost.”
ECU announced last week that its football team had accepted an invitation to join the Big East in 2014, which effectively ended its tenure in Conference USA. C-USA requires that its members play football in the conference for full membership, so the Pirates’ other programs need a home.
East Carolina’s aim, obviously, is full Big East membership, such as Tulane received last week. Would the CAA accept a school that’s clearly renting out space in hopes of landing elsewhere?
“What’s permanent these days?” Yeager asked. “Given the landscape lately, I think if I asked any of our schools for a 10-year commitment, I doubt that they’d do it, and maybe they shouldn’t.”
Less than 24 hours earlier, Yeager and CAA honchos welcomed College of Charleston as a new member, starting with the 2013-14 school year. The CofC Board of Trustees voted Friday to leave the Southern Conference after studying a move to the CAA for weeks.
While Yeager waited for Charleston’s decision last week, he said he received a call from ECU athletic director Terry Holland. Holland told Yeager hours before ECU’s announcement, and that the Pirates might want to discuss partial membership.
Yeager said that he had given the ECU situation little thought, because he has been occupied with Charleston’s decision. He said that he doesn’t lean one way or the other on potential Pirates’ membership, that invitations are left to CAA member schools and are not the commissioner’s decision.
Though Yeager has worked in college athletics for more than three decades and is the only commissioner the CAA has ever had, even he is surprised by the movement and realignment frenzy that’s occurred in the past couple of years.
Rutgers and Maryland to the Big Ten, Pitt and Syracuse and Louisville to the ACC, the Big East picking off Conference USA schools and looking as far west as Boise State and San Diego State and BYU – the Cougars said no – to maintain a viable football product. Even the CAA losing marquee programs VCU and Old Dominion within a matter of weeks last spring, which led to the addition of College of Charleston.
“This time last year,” Yeager said, “who’d have thought we’d be where we are right now?”