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News You Need To Know

"News You Need to Know" sounds like a good blog posting title for a list of those dibs & dabs around the world of Lehigh, the Patriot League, and FCS Football that good Lehigh fans ought to be aware of. Even though kickoff is 86 days away, it doesn't mean that there's no news to speak of. As a matter of fact one huge development could be occurring today in Chicago.

Expansion with Bryant?
One fact in which there is no doubt is that Bryant University, based in Smithfield, Rhode Island, is beginning an exploratory year where this D-II school out of the NE-10 conference is hoping to join Division I.

“Filing this application shows the seriousness of our intent,” Bill Smith, director of athletics, said yesterday.

Bryant has had informal discussions with the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), Northeast Conference (NEC) and Patriot League... “The next step is to continue conversations with the commissioners, athletic directors and presidents. We have to see if one of these conferences thinks we’re at their level and express an interest in us. We want to make sure there is interest on both sides,” Smith said.

Most of the schools in the three conferences Bryant is considering are similar in size, and Byant is academically compatible with many of them. The geographic diversity is attractive to Bryant as it tries to expand its student-population base beyond New England.

This has stirred a passionate debate amongst fans about the possibility of Bryant coming to the Patriot League as a full-time member. They are a private school, which fits the Patriot League profile. Academically, Bryant boasts an institution with an exceptional business school, but without the same broad number of academic offerings that other Patriot League schools generally have. Their endowment is quite large. However, they're considered "Selective" by US News and World Report, while almost all the Patriot League football schools are listed as "Most Selective".

Athletically, they are a very good fit. They have a very successful men's D-II football program and have a men's basketball program that hasn't been scared to "play up" against Big East basketball programs such as Syracuse. They've recently built a 4,600 seat field for football. Geographically, they add another school out East for the league that fits nicely between Fordham and Holy Cross (for football) and Army and Holy Cross for all other sports.

My opinion is that the Patriot League shouldn't dismiss any expansion candidates, especially if they want to join up in all sports. I could see a scenario where both Marist and Bryant join our league in all sports, making our football conference a perfect nine members and a manageable ten members in basketball. Such a situation would make our athletic leagues stronger - provided that these schools continue to work towards making their schools more selective.

The Non-Scholly Conference
Why is today so important, though, about Bryant? The reason is in Chicago today there is a summit involving the future of non-scholarship football hosted by the commissioner of the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League (or PFL). This summit is timely; with Duquesne recently announcing their intent to join the limited-scholarship NEC, the non-scholarship MAAC after this year is scheduled to dip to four members, and could disband as a football conference.

The rumor is representatives from Bryant are at this meeting, trying to determine what sort of football team they may want to have in Division I. If they decide to have a non-scholarship team, they may be the breath of life for the MAAC to keep that five-team conference afloat at least another year. If they want to be a grant-in-aid school, they could join the Patriot League. If they want to be a limited scholarship school, they could join the NEC.

The MAAC's future after this should also be watched closely by the Patriot League. If the league disbands, what do the other schools (Marist, Iona, LaSalle, St. Peter's) do? Do they try to become football independents? Do they simply close up shop? I've reported before that Marist seems interested in joining the Patriot League, while LaSalle and Iona have been putting money into their facilities, not cutting them. Where do they go from there?

The answers to these questions could be forthcoming, based on an important meeting in Chicago, and could have huge ramifications for the entire league. [UPDATE: Today St Peter's of the MAAC has announced they are dropping football. This basically spells the official end of the MAAC conference sponsoring football, based on the press release which mentions the "demise of the MAAC football league".]

HoyaSaxa: Improving the Fan Experience has a great series running inviting fans to have a dialogue about how to improve the Georgetown football experience. All three installments so far have been great: the intro, Part I, and Part II (and no, I'm not saying this only because I was quoted several times in there), and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series. Of note is a very cool idea to use the "southwest quadrangle" at Georgetown and access transform it into a "Gate" complete with international tailgate food. I could really, really get into that - and I think it would be an easy sell for my wife, too.

Dibs & Dabs
Aside from the earth-shattering news that I'm hoping to spruce up some of the items in the Lehigh Football Nation Clothing Store with some new stuff for the 2007 season (and, by the way, it's the last day for guaranteed delivery before Fathers Day for some of the closeout items on there), RichH's poking around the 2007 roster pointed out that one of the "Faces to Watch" in 2007, freshman Charles Brallier, not only is listed as a NT/OT but is also listed at a beefy 330 lbs. Could he enter the summer training camp to play on the offensive line? Very interesting... and I'm smiling right here thinking of senior OT Jimmy Kehs on one side and Brallier, potentially, on the other!


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