Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Of the rumours in the air and how Hofstra may benefit

A Night Ranger song relevant to the topic. Thank you realignment!

Let's hand it to the CAA, or whatever is left of it and its renegade Virginia-based core members at this early morning moment: It is an equal opportunity provider. Multiple times per week, news and/or rumors break that supply a chance to write with some clarity about this murky, messy, mucked up situation. And multiple times per week, news and/or rumors break that make it utterly impossible to write with some clarity about this murky, messy, mucked up situation.

Sometimes, both things happen in the same day. Like yesterday, when's Brett McMurphy reported Conference USA is adding Old Dominion and five other schools for the 2013-14 season. The Virginian Pilot wasn't quite as declarative later Tuesday, when it reported Old Dominion to C-USA was not a done deal but that the conference wanted an answer from the school by the end of the week.

Regardless, the news/rumors brought a sudden end to the temporary tranquility the CAA was enjoying after the Daily Press reported Saturday VCU would remain in the league for at least another year and not immediately jump to the Atlantic 10. Of course, a one-year "commitment" recommended by an athletic director who will be calling Minnesota home later this month shouldn't have given anyone a long-term sense of security or stability.

Now? My guess is if Old Dominion leaves for C-USA, it will have done the dirty work for VCU and George Mason by giving them the opening they needs to spin their exits—exits that were probably going to happen anyway—from the CAA as a search for stability.

There's no way to spin this: It will be very bad news for the CAA as a whole if the three schools that have combined to win the last six CAA titles and 13 of the last 18 overall bolt.

But it'd be pretty easy to spin it as good news for the Flying Dutchmen, both in the short- and long-term.

If Old Dominion, VCU and Mason all leave, they will presumably be ineligible to participate in next year's CAA tournament. (I don't know if the CAA can bar a school from participating in the tournament if it announces its intentions to leave in mid-year—don't underestimate all three schools dragging out the decision-making process in hopes of keeping their NCAA hopes alive) Subtract UNC Wilmington and Towson—each likely to be ineligible for postseason play due to their APR issues—and there would be a grand total of seven teams competing for the title in Richmond.

This would be GREAT news for the Flying Dutchmen as well as everyone else sticking around. Hofstra would still not be a favorite in this scenario—that honor would probably be shared by Drexel and Delaware—but the path to the NCAA's is a lot clearer with the big three gone and only seven teams in the tournament.

In the longer term, Hofstra has been absent from the realignment talk (that we know of, anyway), as has the rest of the America East five (that we know of, anyway) and UNC Wilmington (that we know of, anyway), and, to a large degree, James Madison and William & Mary (that we know of anyway).

The irrelevance makes sense on multiple levels. As noted above, VCU, Old Dominion and Mason have been the conference's marquee programs (though UNC Wilmington is the only school still in the CAA to win a title in the last 18 years). They have the cache that other conferences want.

It's also appropriate the America East five and UNC Wilmington have been ignored as everyone frets over the future of the CAA, which can talk all it wants about the footprint but has made it abundantly clear it cares the most about the schools located inside the 10th of the original colonies (American history lesson!). Now that those schools may be the ones that end the CAA as we know it, and lead to a worst-case scenario of mass defections of core members, the CAA might find itself needing the AE5 to save its backside all over again. (Oh yes, we haven't forgotten)

Let's assume (yeah yeah I know what happens when you assume) that Old Dominion, VCU and Mason all leave. That drops the CAA to eight members: Hofstra, Delaware, Drexel, Northeastern, Towson, James Madison, William & Mary and UNC Wilmington. In order to maintain its automatic bid, a league must have at least six schools that have been in the league for at least five consecutive years.

At this moment—and again, anything can change at any moment—it looks like non-football schools Hofstra, Drexel, Northeastern and UNC Wilmington are the most stable. In that case, just ONE more school has to stick around—either William & Mary remains or one of the trio of Delaware, Towson and James Madison decides I-A football is a bloody awful idea—for the CAA to keep its NCAA golden ticket as it rebuilds around what is now its northeast-based core. After years of drawing the short straw, Hofstra, et al, would now be in a position of power—maybe even powerful enough TO GET THE TOURNAMENT ROTATED AMONG A BUNCH OF DIFFERENT SITES.

Who knew we might be able to get the conference home we wanted by hanging tight? And all it would take is anarchy in the CAA. Bad for the league, terrible for tradition, but pretty damn good for Hofstra. Unless what's happening to the CAA is what happened to the East Coast Conference, in which case this isn't good for Hofstra. We'll have more on that possibility later in the week. Unless there's nothing to write about. I'm not really sure.

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