Sunday, September 2, 2012

The MWC has Nothing to Lose by Adding New Mexico St

I feel bad for the Aggies, I really do.  They have the chops to be an FBS program and they are better than their instate rivals up the interstate.  Unlike Idaho, they actually have the facilities to be in FBS.  I don't see why the MWC doesn't just let them in.  The MWC is committed to an 8 game conference schedule in football due to Air Force's Out-of-Conference obligations to rival service academies Army and Navy so the addition of an 11th football member would not jeopardize the schedule; the MWC would simply schedule 8 conference games among its 11 members much like the Big Ten did for two decades.  In basketball is where adding the Aggies makes the most sense.  With the loss of San Diego St and BYU the MWC has lost much of its basketball prowess.  Sure New Mexico and UNLV are still around but this is a league that was truly in a position where they eclipsed the Pac-12 for basketball eliteness.  New Mexico St brings respectable RPI and would help the MWC hold its status as a 3 bid conference.  Basketball scheduling is also where having the Aggies around would really help.  With 9 members, one school is left idle every night of basketball or is left to find an OOC foe.  Bringing in a 10th school would eliminate that issue and potentially offer the convenience of travel partners should the MWC take that path.

There is the school of thought that would be hesitant to shake up the MWC because when the Big East Across America Experiment fails the MWC would be in the position to reabsorb Boise St and San Diego St and be at a convenient number of 12 for football and thus nice, neat divisions of 6.  My response to this is this: "why let Boise St and San Diego St dictate MWC realignment policy when they aren't even members any more and we have no idea when and if the Big East thing will fail?"  If and when they do come back and the MWC needs to figure out its alignment the MWC could simply dip into FCS for a 14th or approach BYU.  Maybe by them Montana will be willing to come up and leave its a little brother behind (they can keep the annual rivalry game for nostalgia's sake)

It just doesn't seem right to leave New Mexico St dangling in the wind without a conference and without any geographically reasonable alternative out there.

Disbanding the CAA

The CAA at present is in a real state of disarray.
The 2005 expansion was designed to bring big television markets and secure the status of the league as an elite FCS league. That plan has failed miserably because the league did not have the foresight to predict the cancellation of the Hofstra and Northeastern football programs or the defections of the upwardly mobile ODU, VCU, and GSU programs. The CAA is now left with 9 schools with radically different agendas and a geographic footprint spanning from Boston to Wilmington:

Northeastern and Hofstra--these schools were the ones who jeopardized the football league. They are an odd geographic fit and their primary, if not only, concern is basketball. They want to expand in the north. It's too bad the CAA can't ask them to go back to America East.

Drexel--Drexel is a Philadelphia basketball school that longs for the Big 5 to be the Big 6. They'd probably prefer a northern school but ultimately they want the best basketball school willing to join irregardless of their location because Drexel needs the CAA to be a league that can gain At-Large bids to the NCAA Men's BB Tourney.

Delaware and James Madison--Both of these schools would love to find a league willing to let them play FBS football as an affiliate. They need CAA football at the moment but would defect if they had the opportunity. However its doubtful that both will get that chance so at least one of them will be left wedded to the CAA

William & Mary and Towson--These schools were comfortable in the old CAA line up but I think the recent shake up has them both concerned. I have to think that the Patriot League is eyeing them and they are also eyeing the Patriot. As for their view on CAA expansion, they no doubt want to drag the footprint South.

George Mason--Another school that only cares about basketball. I don't think they are too picky about where future members come from so long as they bring a good RPI. George Mason would probably vote NO on any expansion candidate with a football program.

UNC Wilmington--This school's agenda is clear--we want Southern schools who play good basketball; they'll veto any expansion school North of the Mason Dixon.

What I see as a potential result of the infighting and indecision of this league is that the all sports members of this league beginning to think about alternatives to sticking with the dysfunctional CAA.  The Patriot League strikes me as a conference that could be potentially on the prowl.  I once pegged that league as a classy, academic minded league whose membership was pretty much static.  However in recent months they have caught the college sports world completely off guard.  First, they took advantage of America East's weakness by swiping Boston University and then they snatched the Loyola Greyhounds from the MAAC.  I think this conference would very much like to have William & Mary and by extension, Towson, who once played football with them at the turn of the millennium.  As the William & Mary Tribe goes so does the Richmond Spiders football team.  This would turn the Patriot into a 12 member all sports league with 10 football members (and of those 10, Fordham, Georgetown, and Richmond would be affiliates).

The loss of the schools would create a massive gap in the CAA footprint.  UNC Wilmington would be the soul Southern school.  I think the America East would then step in to offer its "assistance".  America East could have its pick of the league and could take as many as 6 schools if they so chose.  Northeastern, Hofstra, and Drexel would fit nicely in their current footprint.  Delaware would be a beautiful add as well.  They would give UMBC a true travel partner and their football program would secure America East's takeover of the football conference.  George Mason offers the best basketball program of the lot as well as a foot into Washington D.C.  James Madison is kind of a question mark.  They have the best football program but they are a clear FBS flight risk.  If it were up to me I'd leave them out of the deal and let them figure out their own path.  As the 14th member of this league I'd take Central Connecticut St.  The result is fairly consise footprint with natural travel partners:

Upper New England--Maine & Vermont
Eastern New England--New Hampshire & Northeastern
Connecticut--Central Connecticut St & Hartford
Upstate NY--Binghampton & Albany
Long Island--Stony Brook & Hofstra
Delaware Valley--Drexel & Delaware
D.C. Area--UMBC & George Mason

Here is what the football conference would look like (affiliates marked with asterisks):

New Hampshire
Rhode Island*
Central Connecticut St
Stony Brook
Villanova* (if they don't go to the Patriot)

and less likely:
James Madison* (if no one in FCS grabs them)
UMass* (if they are booted from the MAC)

The America East would then be in a position to declare open season on NEC football, grabbing as few or as many football affiliates as they wanted.  Bryant, Sacred Heart, Wagner, Monmouth, St Francis, Robert Morris, and Duquesne could all be thrown into the mix.