Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Stony Brook and the CAA (NEWSDAY)

  Stony Brook University football head coach Chuck Priore
Photo credit: James Escher

We could soon begin to witness the proverbial domino effect on the FCS (formerly Division I-AA) landscape. Once they do start to fall it could impact Stony Brook’s football program in a big way.
With big payouts to BCS bowl teams and lucrative televisions deals to be made, college presidents and athletic directors of FCS schools have been at a crossroads. Do we stay on this level, make the leap to FBS (Division I-A) or drop the program altogether?
Some schools –Hofstra, Iona, Northeastern, La Salle– have opted to drop their programs in recent seasons, while others, such as UMass and Villanova, have made the leap to the next level or at least are thinking about it. UMass announced a few weeks ago it was leaving the CAA, an FCS league, join the MAC. Villanova is mulling over a jump from the CAA to the Big East.
So where does Stony Brook fit in?
Stony Brook upgraded itself several years ago from a non-scholarship football program to a scholarship operation. The school has since prospered on the field, posting three winning seasons in its last four. With so many defections from the CAA, the door for Stony Brook to leave the Big South could be right around the corner.
It’s not a crazy idea.
The CAA has lost Hofstra and Northeastern already and will lose Rhode Island, which is leaving for the Northeast Conference in 2013. UMass bolting and Villanova possibly leaving makes five teams the CAA will lose over the next few years.
The league did add two teams. Georgia State will begin CAA play in 2012 and Old Dominion starts conference play in the fall. But that may not be enough to fill the void, especially with the loss of Villanova, the highest profile school in the conference.
Wildcats won the 2009 FCS national championship.
Joining the CAA makes sense for Stony Brook. Most of their opponents are within reasonable distance from the school, which should cut travel costs. In fact, only one team in the CAA is south of Virginia (Georgia State), compared to four of the Big South’s six teams that are located in North Carolina or South Carolina.
A fifth team –Liberty– is located in Virginia.
There will be obstacles. Most notably the recent four-year contract extension Stony Brook signed with the Big South. The new deal, announced last September, will keep the Seawolves in the conference through 2015.
In cases like this, deals can be broken.
The thought here is that if the CAA comes calling, Stony Brook will answer