Much was discussed at the Green Pond country club. My initial impressions of the goings-on on Thursday are below. They may mean more when I release my complete interviews with Patriot League executive director Carolyn Schlie Femovich on College Sporting News, and my interviews with coach Coen, senior RB Matt McGowan and senior DB BrendanVanAckeren, but it's still worth simply blogging my from-the-gut impressions of the proceedings.
Oh, for the record, Lehigh placed fifth in the Patriot League preseason poll. Here are the results of the poll:
Patriot League Preseason Poll Results
1. Fordham (9) 68
2. Holy Cross (4) 56
3. Colgate (1) 53
4. Lafayette 48
5. Lehigh 35
6. Bucknell 18
7. Georgetown 16
Patriot League Preseason Award Winners
Offensive Player of the Year: Dominic Randolph, QB, Holy Cross (Sr., 6'3, 223, Amelia, Ohio/St. Xavier)
Defensive Player of the Year: Andy Romans, LB, Lafayette (Sr., 5'11, 215, Allendale, N.J./St. Joseph Regional)
Here are my impressions.
- Newspapers everywhere are hurting. This isn't really an observation about the Patriot League per se, but when folks were joking that the only press that were likely to be at Media Day were the two local papers and some College Sporting News and Sports Network journalists, I thought that would be a serious exaggeration. It was - but not that much of an exaggeration. It has nothing to do with the League, really -newspapers everywhere are struggling and cutting staff. Still, it was highly disappointing to see that zero New York City media members made the trip to Bethlehem to see Fordham be the preseason pick to win the Patriot League. I know Fordham is second banana in the Big Apple to the latest in the Stray-Rod saga, but c'mon, not one lousy reporter? Couldn't a New York Times guy hit media day in the morning, hit Eagles training camp at Lehigh in the afternoon and go home? (I mean, it's not like Eagles training camp lacks drama... with collapsing "D" linemen and all-pro's not showing up.) Patriot League people know Fordham is the real deal... come on, not one person?
- The Academic Index Reforms Are Coming... But Lack Critical Details. I came to Media Day hoping for more information on the Academic Index changes for 2008 (or AI for short), but some of the key details did not appear to be totally ironed out yet, which was disappointing to me. Athletic staffs need to know, for example, what the AI floor for the league is going to be, and I thought it odd that the floor for the league hadn't been calculated yet. They should be done sometime in the fall - hopefully they will come in time for the football staffs. Having said that, however, it is very clear that the AI reforms are seen as a critical first step to any future steps for the Patriot League.
- Folks don't seem happy with removing the bye week. Removing the bye week in 2010 when the FCS Playoffs expand means that games like "The Rivalry" will be kicked up to, say November 13th, 2010 instead of the weekend before Thanksgiving. The folks I talked to don't seem happy at all about this, and are secretly hoping that some accomodation can be made to keep a bye week and the traditional rivalries on the same weekend they were before. The Patriot League is only one league, of course, but stay tuned on this. ESPN (and, to a lesser extent, Chattanooga, the site of the FCS championship) has dictated in the past the date of the game: many FCS schools seem pretty upset about no bye weeks. Will FCS and ESPN get a game in between Christmas and New Years instead? It sure would be better for the players of FCS.
- Expansion is being discussed - at the presidential level. Calling them "exploratory discussions at the presidential level", Ms. Femovich in her opening statements talked about league expansion - for football, mind you - in a very specific way. While not calling anything "imminent", it's clear that discussions are happening at the highest levels of the league about expansion. It's a topic worth its own blog posting in the future. This subject really struck me, especially considering last year when nothing seemed imminent even though Marist seemed to very much want to join the Patriot League (and, importantly, live with the same AI rules and aid rules as the rest of the league).
- Football Scholarships? Although folks were generally tight-lipped about this subject this time around, one thing appears pretty clear: the subjects of expansion of the league and football scholarships are linked. Think of it this way: what president with a team in, say, the Big South, NEC or CAA would want to transition to the Patriot League with largely need-based aid when they have unrestricted scholarships now? Imortantly, I think folks at the highest levels of the Patriot League are finally aware of this fact. If the Patriot League is to get a new football-playing school, some form of scholarships have to be a part of that mix. That was not always clear in recent years. That appears crystal-clear now.
More will be clear in my CSN interview with Ms. Femovich, but overall my impression is that it seems like things are heading towards change. Perhaps not as fast as some folks want things to go, but change appears to be comin'. It appears at the presidential level folks have concluded that expansion is something to pursue vigorously - and if that's the case, then some form of football scholarships seem likely to be a part of that package.