Friday, October 19, 2012

CAA set to snag College of Charleston--What does this mean for realignment?

ESPN's Andy Katz is reporting that College of Charleston will be announcing that they have accepted a CAA invitation today.  This would give the once 12 member league 10 members and C of C will be the southernmost member of a conference that extends north all the way to Boston.  I am not going to discuss the impact this move will have on the Cougar's program because frankly I don't care.  What I am more focused on is what it means for the CAA and SoCon and the rest of the conferences in the region that will feel the shock waves of this long awaited announcement.

Since Davidson and Appalachian St have rebuffed the CAA's advances I think what this means for the CAA is that they will be staying at 10 members and play double round robin schedules.  Its going to mean a great deal of travel for members of this league but hopefully they can work out a plan for travel partners to ease that burden.

If CAA's full-time membership is indeed capped at 10 it means that the football conference will have 11 members. 11 can work for a football league--the Big Ten did it for twenty years--but what I think we are going to see is NEC member Central Connecticut St, the lone state school in a private school league, get an invitation to join the now 8 member America East and that the Blue Devils football team will become the 12th member of the CAA football conference with their new conference mates Albany, Stony Brook, New Hampshire, and Maine.  The other New England member of CAA football, Rhode Island, will be the 6th member of the CAA's North Division for that sport.  I think its a match made in heaven, pardon the pun blue devils.

Should Central Connecticut St depart the NEC for AmEast it creates an interesting imbalance between the 3 confererences in the region.  AmEast would be at 9 members, a number they once rested at but in basketball 10 is ideal, particularly when it comes to creating travel partners.  The NEC would be at 11 full members only 6 of whom play football (they also have Duquesne as a football affiliate so the fb league would be at 7) leaving that league in a somewhat weakened state particularly since Robert Morris, a football playing member has been flirting with the Horizon League.  The MAAC, which consists entirely of private schools is sitting at 9 members right now because Loyola darted for the Patriot League.  Will the more elite AmEast and MAAC try to return to the magic number of 10, thus leaving the NEC weakened and in need of a transfusion of DII teams to stay cogent?

As for the status of the SoCon and southern sports I think it ultimately depends on how the SoCon approaches its future.  Since football drives the bus  and there is the everpresent chance that league standard barers Appalachian St and Georgia Southern have FBS aspirations do they add a school with a football program?  The best programs out there with football programs are public schools Coastal Carolina and Jacksonville St.  However the private schools hold a great deal of sway in this league and they could be targeting a private school with less than stellar football because they want a better institutional fit.  The SoCon could also preserve the delicate 9/12 fb/bb hybrid model and target a southern school without roundball in order to refill their ranks.

If Jacksonville St is picked to go to the SoCon then the fallout is minimal---the OVC replaces them with DII powerhouse North Alabama and while DII is left reeling DI is relatively unchanged.  if Coastal Carolina goes then the Big South is left with 11 members, only 5 of whom play football.  The league might have to consider merging with an also depleted NEC or restructure their football conference to include the plethora of southern schools who play non-scholarship football and/or are starting up programs.  Davidson, Campbell, Mercer, Kennesaw St, Jacksonville, and Stetson could come in as a block and keep Big South football alive.

The conferences that will be hit the hardest will be the so called "Gateway Conferences" at the bottom of the pecking order who are the ones who will be forced to look to DII for new blood because as the conferences  above them raid each other the impact trickles down to them.  In the north it means the NEC will be left hurting--unless they are able to use the one trump card they hold--football sponsorship--to their advantage.  While Big South football may become a causality (or at minimum the walking wounded) of this expansion round I think the A-Sun will be hurt more because the Big South can use football to lure away their membership which includes 4 schools who play or will soon be playing that sport.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Big East Update

I have neglected to mention that Notre Dame has dumped the Big East in favor the ACC where it will play it Olympic sports as a full member while maintaining its independence in football.  The ACC was smart and learned from the Big East's mistakes: while the Big East was okay with a gentlemen's agreement from the Irish to face their football programs the ACC insisted that the Irish will play 5 ACC teams a year on a rotating basis.

The ACC is suddenly stable for at least another decade while the Big East is left reeling and the Big 12 is left scratching its head now that their pipedream of landing Notre Dame is gone--not that they ever had a realistic shot at ever landing them.  The Big Ten is similarly infuriated that they have been jilted by the Irish for basketball league.  The Irish added insult to injury by cancelling their series with Michigan and I would not be surprised to see the Michigan St and Purdue games also go by the wayside.  

It once again brings up questions concerning the Big East's stability?  With the Irish gone and no longer providing a bridge between the two factions do the Catholic schools finally consider asking for a divorce settlement?

Then there is the issue of the television deal and that elusive 14th football school.  Aresco is getting desperate.  We are in that exclusive negotiating window with ESPN and it seems that neither BYU or Air Force like the numbers enough to commit to the Big East for football.  Mike got caught airing the conference's dirty laundry when it came out that he was trying to coax Navy into coming sooner than the agreed 2015 date.  Mike needs the national audience that the Midshipmen will draw in order to bump up the dollar value of the media deal and presumably get that 14th school, BYU, interested.  Navy has no interest in coming early; they aren't ready and an early entry date would mean cancelling contracts against scheduled opponents which would both be costly and potentially burn bridges for Annapolis.  The Midshipmen are men and women of integrity and are not about to renig on their contracts.  I am still of the opinion that Navy is better off remaining an independent and staying out of this Big East mess.  The same goes for the other service academies.

Then we have to wonder if the Big East will consider filling Notre Dame's vacancy with a Catholic basketball school.  Xavier and St Louis come to mind.  Scheduling for a 17 member basketball league is sure to be a daunting task

Cal State Bakersfield and Utah Valley to the WAC

It's been some time since I have written a blog article but that is mainly because there has been little movement in the college sports world as everyone is either watching and waiting to find out what the Big East does regarding its future television contract and membership or they are waiting for the stalemate the CAA is facing with its desired expansion candidates showing little interest in joining a basketball conference spanning from Boston to Wilmington, NC and possibly further.

Well yesterday the WAC, yes the WAC still exists, added Cal State Bakersfield and Utah Valley to its ranks bringing total membership to a whopping 6---the others are Idaho, New Mexico St, Denver, and Seattle.  This is a great thing for the Roadrunners and Wolverines but I doubt much of the rest of the NCAA landscape took notice.  The decision to keep the WAC going through at least the 2013-2014 academic year, and possibly the 2014-2015 one as well appears to me nothing more than a stall tactic.  Despite Craig Thompson telling them it isn't happening, New Mexico St and Idaho are holding out for some dramatic change involving a MWC member defecting to the Big East for football thus garnering one of them, likely NMSU a slot in the more prestigious and stable MWC.  My belief is that the two schools have a gentleman's agreement to try out FBS independence for two years to see if A) they can make it work and, B) to hold out a little while longer for the MWC to let them in.  Once one (NMSU) gets an invite, the other (Idaho) will bid them adieu and promptly join the Big Sky and downgrade to FCS.  This seems logical as Idaho has actually been talking to Big Sky officials and got permission from their board of regents for permission to make the move.  At which point, the WAC would be no more.  My guess is there thinking is that they can make independence work so long as there are the two of them--one cannot make it alone without the other and while Idaho could move to the Big Sky immediately they are holding out hope and trying to help out New Mexico St.  The Vandals are not doing this purely out of altruism however: both Idaho and New Mexico St stand to collect paychecks for playing guarantee (body bag) games against major conference foes.  Idaho will get paychecks from Ole Miss and Washington St in 2013 and Florida in 2014.  New Mexico St similarly, will collect a handsome sum in 2013 for putting teams on the field against Texas and UCLA.

Denver and Seattle are also content with keeping the WAC alive a little while longer.  Neither has any where to go at the moment so a conference schedule, albeit a small and weak one, and access to the NCAA Men's basketball tournament is preferable to being on their own.  Denver, Seattle, and the pair of football schools also have a financial incentive to keep the WAC alive because they can reap whatever television monies that are due to the WAC as well as collect any exit fees from the departing schools.  Denver and Seattle are playing a waiting game of their own with the private school league WCC.  The West Coast Conference seems content with 10 but Seattle and Denver are still hoping that the respective television markets they reside in, even if they are only delivering a tiny share, will catch the attention of the WCC.  There is also the matter of BYU and should they ever go to the Big 12 it could provide an opportunity for one of those schools to get into the WCC.

That #12 slot in the Big West is also still sitting there too.  It could go to a MWC-to BEfb defector or be filled by another program like Cal St Bakersfield or Sacramento St

In short, there is nothing to dramatic or revealing about the WAC expansion announced this week.  In fact, their won't be anything conclusive until the Big East finally makes a move.  If 2014 rolls around and nothing has happened and we still have the same 6 schools residing in the WAC when the WAC's two-year waiver with the NCAA regarding their membership falling below 7 is up expect them to call up the Grand Canyon University Antelopes to prolong the life of the conference a little longer.  Grand Canyon is already positioned itself to where it can make a move it simply needs an invite now.