The Colonial Athletic Association wraps up five days of meetings at Hilton Head, S.C., on Wednesday, which conveys a couple of things: Their meetings are in better locales than yours and mine; they have a heck of a lot to address.
Old members, new members. Exit fees, entry fees. Football-only schools, all-sports schools. Revenue distribution. Scheduling. TV arrangements and game broadcasts.
We will effort a comprehensive take on the proceedings in the days ahead. Commissioner Tom Yeager was busy playing ringmaster early Wednesday afternoon, so he dispatched lieutenant Scott Meyer to discuss a few talking points from the football side, which wrapped up early in the week.
First, the CAA will have nine full members in 2013-14: William and Mary, James Madison, Delaware, Towson, UNC Wilmington, Drexel, Northeastern, Hofstra and College of Charleston. Elon comes aboard in 2014.
Only four full members play football: W&M, JMU, Towson and Delaware. The league has seven members for football only: Richmond, Villanova, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and – new this year – Stony Brook and Albany.
On the football side, schools voted to expand travel rosters from 57 to 65 players in conference games, with a one-game exception where everyone can take more players. This was a nod to the increased awareness surrounding concussions and head injuries, and it will make more players available in the event of such injuries.
The conference also voted to tweak its tiebreaker format for the NCAA’s automatic bid. An administrative panel from schools not involved in the tie will be the tiebreaker of last resort, once all other criteria have been exhausted. The panel will replace the Sagarin ratings, for reasons of expediency and to choose a school for the NCAA selection committee.
Last November, you may recall, had JMU defeated Old Dominion on the final Saturday night of the regular season, it would have left five teams tied atop the standings. Though ODU was officially prohibited from winning the league title and automatic bid, the Monarchs figured in the various tiebreaker procedures.
Because all of the competitive criteria for choosing the automatic qualifier — head-to-head, comparative records within the group, records against teams in descending order of the standings — would not have separated the teams, the CAA would have had to rely on Sagarin’s ratings. Those aren’t posted until Sunday morning, after the NCAA selection committee wants each league’s automatic qualifier, for seeding and bracketing purposes.
Thus, the committee. Now, a quick and reasoned decision from an administrative committee is a little like expecting a quiet explosion, but here’s guessing that CAA honchos hope it never comes to that.
They also noodled football schedules and scheduling formats for 2014, when Elon joins. The Fighting Feenix give the CAA 12 football schools, provided there are no further defections or upheaval. The league must decide if it wants to go to a divisional format or remain a 12-team conglomerate.
The logical divisional split is W&M, JMU, Richmond, Towson, Delaware and Elon in the south; and Villanova, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Stony Brook and Albany in the north.
Everyone was sensitive to travel concerns for the northern outposts, which is a primary reason for the additions of Albany and Stony Brook, and a contributing factor in Rhody’s about-face to de-emphasize football and join the Northeast Conference.
One issue of going to a divisional format means that rivals Delaware and Villanova would be split. That could be addressed by making them permanent crossover opponents.
Even if the CAA chooses not to implement a divisional format, it’s likely to schedule geographically, north and south, in a “pod” format, with rotating crossover opponents.
Meyer said scheduling is still being debated. He said league officials, with input from schools and coaches, hope to reach a decision on the format some time next season and have the guts of a working model in place by early 2014.
Nothing is set for next season’s TV broadcasts with NBC Sports Network, or regionally with Comcast. That’s likely to be unveiled at the annual football media gabfest in late July. CAA folks like the prospect of getting back into the New York area market, with Stony Brook and Albany.
Yeager and the folks spent the past couple of days tending to matters related to full membership, for a league that looks very different than 18 months ago. VCU, ODU, George Mason and Georgia State are gone. College of Charleston is in, with Elon on the way, and northern tier football is shored up.