The scene: Sunday morning, Oct. 28, Colonial Athletic Association World Headquarters in Richmond, aka, the Palace on Patterson.
Commissioner Tom Yeager paces back and forth in a conference room as the staff assembles.
“Did you see yesterday’s scores?” Yeager asks, waving a printout of the CAA’s weekly football release. “Has anybody looked at the schedule for the last three weeks? How are we going to get everybody in the playoffs?”
Several seconds pass. Associate Commissioner Robert Goodman finally breaks the silence: “We can’t get everybody in the playoffs.”
“Why not?” Yeager says.
Associate Commissioner Scott Meyer pipes up: “The math won’t allow it. There’s only 10 at-larges and we’d have to get six of them. People give us the stink-eye when we’ve gotten four.”
Yeager is well aware of the math. He sees seven playoff-worthy teams. Bad enough that at least a couple are going to be left out, but he’s looking at the schedule. He sees contenders still playing each other in the final three weeks and possible further knockouts and playoff teams stuck with lower seeds and road games.
“Ron, who came up with this schedule?” Yeager asks associate commish Ron Bertovich.
“I’m the basketball guy,” Bertovich says. “How the hell do I know?”
“Good God, Ron, it’s football,” Yeager says. “They only play 11 times a year. Basketball plays 30 games a year. How can it be that difficult not to cannibalize ourselves so we can get as many people in the playoffs as possible?”
Bertovich pauses for a few seconds.
“Tom, when you have this many good teams and you only play 11 times a year, it’s much harder to avoid playing people,” he says. “Look at SEC football or Big East basketball. They can’t help but play each other and knock each other off. We’ll get a couple more teams in the playoffs than most people, but somebody’s getting left home. Collateral damage.”
“What about NBC?” Yeager says to no one in particular. “Can we get them to give us some help in getting extra teams into the playoffs? What’s the point of having a deal with a billion-dollar multi-media company if they can’t do a little gerrymandering for us?”
“I doubt seriously that NBC would try to pull strings for us, especially for FCS football,” Chief Operating Officer Cindy Williams says. “I mean, they’re peeved enough at us after signing the contract with us and then watching VCU and Old Dominion go out the door. We aren’t exactly the same league they thought they were getting. I’ve run some preliminary numbers and losing VCU and ODU, and even the Atlanta presence with Georgia State …”
Just then, Yeager reaches into his pocket and pushes a remote control button, opening a trap door under Williams’ chair. She plummets out of sight, her screams echoing and then fading as the door closes. Yeager will take it from Bertovich, but not a business head.
“It’s bad enough that ODU will get one of the at-larges that could go to somebody else who’s actually staying,” Yeager says. “The committee won’t consider that. They’ll see ODU as a CAA team, even though they’re dead to me.”
Bertovich takes a second to check the floor beneath his chair and then says, “Wait, Tom, weren’t you saying at basketball media day that even though ODU and Georgia State aren’t eligible for the tournament, they’re still part of the family and we’d promote their schools and their teams until they leave?”
“Jeez, Berto, are you that dim, or am I that good? Of course I said that,” Yeager says. “What am I going to say: Good riddance? Don’t let the door hit you on the way out? Those media feebs eat up that gracious, magnanimous crap.”
Yeager realizes that football is probably too far down the road to change anything. Whatever happens, happens. Basketball is a different story. We’re just getting started. Suddenly, an idea pops into his head.
“See if we can link up Delle Donne to royalty or a rapper,” Yeager says. “Lord knows she’s got more going for her than Pippa Middleton and I see her everywhere. Besides, she has kind of a regal look, anyway. There has to be some prince or count who'd be interested if we got the word out. And if we can't make that work, hip-hop guys love basketball.”
The upcoming schedules for playoff contenders:
New Hampshire (7-2, 5-1 CAA): William and Mary, Towson.
James Madison (6-2, 4-1 CAA): at Maine, at Villanova, ODU.
Villanova (6-3, 4-2 CAA): JMU, at Delaware.
Richmond (5-3, 3-2 CAA): Rhody, Delaware, at William and Mary.
Towson (4-4, 3-2 CAA): at Delaware, Rhody, at New Hampshire.
Delaware (5-3, 2-3 CAA): Towson, at Richmond, Villanova.
The CAA has gotten as many as five teams in the playoffs, most recently last season as the playoff field expanded to 20 teams. The conference is a lock to get at least four this season, given quality and overall strength. The coming weeks will provide some separation and elimination. Still, good luck to the committee choosing from among teams with similar resume’s.