By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun
11:00 AM EDT, July 11, 2012
Tom Yeager is old enough to remember when there was a Pac-8 rather than a Pac-12, when the Big Ten actually had the number of schools its name implied and when the college football landscape wasn't seemingly changing by the day, if not the hour.
Which is why Yeager, the lone commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association it its 26-year history, does not seem vexed by the defection of Virginia Commonwealth to the Atlantic 10 or the impending departures of Old Dominion to Conference USA and Georgia State to the Sun Belt Conference.
"You have to remember that we still have nine schools," Yeager said in a telephone interview earlier this week. "There was a time when all conferences had eight or nine schools, not 12 or 16. The key element in expansion is to get the right ones."
Yeager won't discuss the talks that are ongoing with a number of schools, but said that "it's still going to be a couple of weeks" before any announcement about the league's future.
It won't happen when the league's remaining seven football programs are represented in Baltimore at the league's pre-season media day July 25.
"I don't think it would be appropriate to have an announcement like that at a day reserved for football," Yeager said.
Towson athletic director Mike Waddell said that he doesn't expect anything to happen "until late summer or early fall", adding that if this was a stew, "it would be cooked in a Crock-Pot, not a microwave."
The list of prospective members will likely include at least one school to join for football, Yeager said. He is not in favor of having an odd number of teams because that "would require one team each week having a bye".
Though Yeager would not speculate about any possible new members, Football Championship Subdivision powerhouse Appalachian State has been mentioned prominently. Other schools that have been mentioned include Stony Brook and the College of Charleston.
Yeager conceded that the loss of VCU, which reached the Final Four in men's basketball two years ago, was difficult given the national profile it helped the CAA attain. The Rams' success came five years after current CAA member George Mason put the Richmond, Va.-based conference on the national radar by becoming the first school in league history to play in the Final Four.
"VCU really established itself nationally," Yeager said. "We have received a lot of respect within the FCS for the quality of our football programs, but because the men's basketball tournament is much more visible than the FCS playoffs, it can't compare with the exposure we received nationally. The reality is that the NCAA men's basketball tournament is a much brighter spotlight."
The departure of VCU and Old Dominion should not be detrimental to the CAA's lone local representative, Towson, which joined the league in 2000.
If anything, the Tigers might benefit from having fewer basketball teams to climb over as they ascend from a very deep basement. In its first season under Pat Skerry, Towson lost its first 22 games — 41 overall dating back to 2010-11, setting a new NCAA record — and finished 1-31.
Conversely, Towson's football program is coming off its best season since joining the CAA. Picked to finish at or near the bottom a year ago, the Tigers were league champions and went from 1-10 in Rob Ambrose's second season to 9-4 overall last season, making the FCS playoffs for the first time.
Waddell said that the school or schools that join the CAA down the road "have to bring something to us."
In another league matter, Waddell said that he and others in Baltimore are trying to bring the CAA's post-season men's basketball tournament to First Mariner Arena after the current contract ends in Richmond in 2014.
Calling it "the first serious pitch" Baltimore has made to host the tournament, Waddell said that Terry Hasseltine of the Maryland Stadium Authority sees it as a "very promising opportunity to hold a big sports event in the city in the first quarter of the year."
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