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Friday Water Cooler: Patriot League Expansion

It's another Freaky Friday around the Office (if not an actual office, just imagine Steve Carrell and the gang instead) - filled with baseball intrigue (the Phillies actually won last night?), financial intrigue (do I have any 401k left?), and, of course, an inconclusive second round of the presidential debate - this time, a town hall style that pretty much everyone thought, well, sucked.

But in the world of the Patriot League, the discussion has turned to expansion of the league in all sports, including football.

This started a worthwhile thread over on the Any Given Saturday message board. On it, carney2 (my favorite Lafayette poster, and my dear online friend for, well, 363 1/2 days out of the year) quotes Keith Groller's print edition of the Morning Call, where Keith details his conversation with Carolyn Schlie Femovich, the Patriot League executive director:

"...expansion for the league 'is not urgent, but is something we're pursuing.'"

"The defining factors [for new members] will be academic quality of the institution and having a competitive Division I athletic program across the board. The key is finding the right match with an institution that values our model. Our goal is to continue the scholar-athlete model as a national brand."

"If we don't find the right marriage, then fine, we've still got solid numbers and we'll continue to go forward as we are."

Femovich said the league's preference is to expand with one or two more football-playing members.

"It's a process that takes place at the presidential level." "Over the past six months we've had numerous discussions..." "By June we should know if we're going to expand or not." "...I'd say it's at least 50-50 that we'll expand, if not better."

That inspired me to dig up my original conversation with Ms. Femovich at Patriot League media day - and reminded me of one of her answers. This was in regards to the "pace" of the reforms that have been done to the league structures, such as the Academic Index reform (which has been officially implemented - watch for details on this, probably next week) and other potential changes - notably the introduction of scholarships in football. Here's what she had to say.

"The AI is now done; [and] we are [now] engaged in some very confidential, presidential discussions about membership. People will come to us from time to time and say, 'Gee, we'd like to join you,' and there's other [schools] out there where we'd say, 'Gee, maybe they'd make a good member.' I think that's moving forward.

"Scholarships in football are something we've taken a hard look at, but I would say if there would be any movement to go to football scholarships, it would be tied to expansion with other football-playing institutions.

"Let's say we found an institution that said, 'We love your values, your ideals, we think we would be a good fit, but we can't come without football scholarships.' We recognize that that might be one of the factors on the table that we will need to agree to in order to expand with an attractive one or two additional members."

Taken with the commissioner's more recent comments with Keith, it puts the issues of expansion in a very interesting light: the possibility that the Patriot League may very well move to football scholarships to get the right school.

To Patriot League watchers, such talk is very fascinating, yet still maddeningly incomplete. Ms. Femovich called the discussions (which appear to have been ongoing from before August and continuing through this week) as needing to be "confidential", and I can certainly understand that. But which schools could possibly be on the table? All we have are tantalizing hints, parsed words, and educated speculation - without an ear on the discussions, it's awful hard to speculate.

That never stopped me before, though, and it's not going to stop me now. I know I've heard Marist bandied about an awful lot, and more and more I've been hearing Davidson's name, too. But I don't think it's either of them - I think the candidates have to be all-sports schools which currently have FCS football at the scholarship level. It also eliminates a lot of other thoughts: start-ups for football (like Loyola) or sub-D-I upgrades for football (like RPI).

Could it be a member of the NEC (perhaps Bryant, a school that is transitioning to Division I)? Could it be a member of the Big South (perhaps VMI, who would love to get into the Patriot League in all sports to hobnob with Army and Navy)? Could it be The Citadel (who also would find it a coup to be in the same league in other sports as Army and Navy)?

Or could it be one of the many members of the CAA (Northeastern, the perfect travel partner for Holy Cross; William & Mary, the perfect travel partner for Georgetown/Navy; or Hofstra, who might give the Patriot League basketball again in New York City)?

If I'm handicapping who's in the running, these are the schools I'd look at first and foremost.

Patriot League Picks: Week Seven
A pathetic 1-3 last week put me at under .500 for the year at 9-10. I must get better! I must! To read the rest of my picks for FCS, click on the College Sporting News to see my CSN Way this week - along with the midseason awards for FCS.

It's worth noting that if you're not going to Fordham at Lehigh, many games this week are being streamed through CSTV XXL.

Lafayette at Columbia. Leopard head coach Frank Tavani was one mad coach last week: of all the team goals he had set for Lafayette against Harvard, none of them were acheived in a resounding 27-13 defeat. Cowed, quarterback Rob Curley and Lafayette will respond this week against winless Columbia.
Lunchpail Leopards 19, Lunchless Lions 3

Hofstra at Bucknell. I think there is some serious trouble brewing in Long Island with the Pride, who didn't exactly play with a lot of it in a 56-0 defeat to #1 James Madison last week. But this Bucknell team, with quarterback Marcelo Trigg, seems to be different. I'm not saying Bucknell will win, but I do think this will be a much closer score than some folks might think.
White 'H's 24, Blue Bison 21

Brown at Holy Cross. Brown's deflating loss to pass-happy Rhode Island can't bode well for the Bears in this game. I've got to believe quarterback Dominic Randolph will pass happy over Brown and give the Crusaders a desperately-needed win. On a less serious note, I can't think of another week where I picked against so many Bears this week.
Deep Purple 37, Deeper Shade of... Brown 18

Princeton at Colgate. It will be fascinating to see how Princeton's rushing defense - by far the best part of that team - does against Jordan Scott after a week of forced rest. I think Scott will get his customary 100 yards - but the Raiders will lose a heartbreaker.
O.W.H. (Original Winged Helmets) 24, Original Maroons 21

Penn at Georgetown. I'd love to say Georgetown has a chance to take this game, but I just don't see it.
Quality Quakers 42, Humbled Hoyas 0


ngineer said…
I would think if the PL were to expand football with the addition of an excellent private school with similar demographics, but needed to go scholarship, it would be Richmond. Also a 'southern partner' for Georgetown. Villanova a second, but not if they're looking for 'all-sports' member. B-Ball kills that idea.
Anonymous said…
Richmond or Northeastern would fit, but fans would love to see Hopkins move up to D-I in all sports. PL would become a LAX power conference!

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