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Hofstra Looking to Leave the CAA?

It started out innocently enough as an article from New York Newsday's Steven Marcus - a brief, 201-word report, quite frankly, not reporting on much.

The headline read: Hofstra explores parting ways with the CAA, and mostly offered the writer's opinion, a cryptic official comment, and an unquoted anonymous source.
Hofstra will explore moving its intercollegiate athletic program out of the southern-based Colonial Athletic Association, persons familiar with the athletic program said Thursday.

Hofstra did not say what has prompted its exploration, but it appears the university would prefer to have more of a northeast profile. The Atlantic-10 is Hofstra's first choice, those close to the situation said, but no openings currently exist in that New England-based group.

...

Hofstra apparently has no interest in returning to the America East.

``We have not had any conversations with representatives from the America East Conference regarding conference affiliation,'' Hofstra athletic director Jack Hayes said in a statement. ``That being said, conference affiliation is a subject that all institutions review on an ongoing basis. The growth of our institution and its athletics program dictates that reviews of this nature take place.''

It might have passed completely under the radar to a lot of fans - but soon afterwards the New York Post had their own report on the matter. Like the Newsday report, it's brief (under 200 words) has a heaping amout of columnist opinion (from writer Lenn Robbins), and only has one official voice talking about it (also cryptically) - Hofstra men's basketball coach Tom Pecora:

Calls to Atlantic 10 commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade were not returned by early evening.

By joining the Atlantic 10, Hofstra and Fordham would become instant rivals. Fordham's lack of progress in improving facilities and its overall inability to succeed in most league sports has left the A-10 without a visible presence in the metropolitan area. Hofstra could provide that.

"We have all the resources here at Hofstra to compete at the highest levels," Hofstra basketball coach Tom Pecora told The Post. "I think there are a lot of things Hofstra would bring to the Atlantic 10."

What in Long Island Iced Tea is going on here?

Forget a moment the dubious claims made by the sportswriters (that the A-10 is a league with a "northeast profile" when it has Xavier, Dayton, and UNCC among its members, or that Fordham and Hofstra would become "instant rivals" when as recently as ten years ago they refused to play each other in anything). Is the fact that two different school officials are sending feelers out into the media meaningful?

Specifically,
The Atlantic-10 is Hofstra's first choice, those close to the situation said, but no openings currently exist in that ... group.

Is this the canary in the coal mine that the long-awaited Big East/A-10 shake-up is about to happen? And if so, how does that affect the Patriot League?

*****

The media reports about Hofstra sure come at an interesting time in Big East history - ten days out from the first-ever Big East Meetings without founder Mike Tranghese at the helm. Incoming commissioner John Marinatto will be presiding in those meetings:

"We'll be meeting [May 17-20] in Ponte Vedra [Fla.],'' Marinatto said. "We usually have our football meetings in August, but we also take a day [in the spring meetings] for football.

This also comes on the heels of Paterno's musings in the media that the Big Ten should consider expanding with Pitt, Rutgers or Syracuse and having a Big Ten Championship game. To an incoming commissioner in a league who already lost Virginia Tech, Boston College and Miami (FL) to the ACC quite recently, those words have no choice but to be taken seriously - even if Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney tamped down those expectations quickly and folks opined why Notre Dame, the most logical 12th team for the Big Ten, wasn't included. (That's not Marinatto's only headache either, with the Gator Bowl reportedly hesitant to take the 2nd-placed Big East team next year.)

As big as these questions are, there's a bigger one. Namely, with a brand-new incoming Big East commissioner, what better time would there be for the football-playing schools to announce they're breaking off to become a new conference - or for a new commissioner to be strong-armed by them into expelling the non-Big-East playing schools?

Admittedly, it's a big assumption. But not out of the realm of possibility - and if it happens now, this month, the effects will cascade throughout athletics sweeping change through the CAA, Atlantic 10, Patriot League, America East, and NEC.

Split?
If a basketball/football split were to occur in the Big East, the base conferences would start out looking like this:

Football: Louisville, UConn, Cincinatti, South Florida, Pitt, Syracuse, Rutgers, West Virginia.

Basketball: Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, Providence, Notre Dame (Football Independent), Seton Hall, St. John's, DePaul.

Both leagues would immedately need to expand, especially in basketball.

The top four targets for football expansion for Big East Football would probably be (my guess, in no particular order) Memphis, East Carolina, UCF and Ball State.

But no matter how you look at it, a new basketball conference would probably name either Temple, St. Joe's, Xavier or Dayton in their top four teams for basketball expansion - in other words, a possibility of four teams from the A-10 - and a bare minimum two of those teams.

While any shift in the MAC/Conference USA in the FBS world would have its own ramifications, should the A-10 lose even one team they won't want to wait on getting a replacement - and now Hofstra has come out front and center and said they'd be interested, but there's "no room at the inn". But what if room becomes available at the inn - suddenly?

Still with me?
Let's be conservative and say that "Big East" basketball takes Xavier and Dayton, the new A-10 takes Hofstra and Drexel (and UMass doesn't join the MAC as a result of the new opening in that FBS conference). Let's also assume that Hofstra will need a new home for its non-Atlantic-10 sports, since Hofstra wouldn't be welcome in the CAA anymore for that purpose.

What about the Patriot League for football?

No team fits into the Patriot League footprint better, located within three and a half hours of all league members. Seven football league games would be bus trips for the Pride, and with close out-of-conference schools like Stony Brook, Columbia, and Wagner close by they could really cut down on travel costs. (Add guarantee games with UConn, Temple, Rutgers, Syracuse, Boston College, and you're even in better shape.)

They'd also be similar to Fordham academically - they're a small, private institution, right in the institutional footprint with a very good graduate program.

If they're keen on getting a basketball rival in Fordham, you'd have to believe in the Patriot League they'd also be keen on a yearly local football rival too with the Rams - probably played the weekend before Thanksgiving.

It's a given, though, that the football program that Shuart built would have scholarships - no downgrades here. But therein lies the rub - the Patriot League doesn't offer football scholarships, and is in the middle of a painful debate as to whether to allow them during an economic downturn.

*****

Let me offer a hypothetical here. Maybe it's crazy talk, but hear me out.

What if Fordham, a member of the A-10, saw something shifting in the wind in their own league? What if they saw an opening to join at the hip with future leaguemate Hofstra - and saw that the future with Hofstra involved football scholarships?

What if, as a result of this conclusion, Fordham saw Hofstra as a potential club member in the Patriot League in football - but only in a Patriot League with football scholarships, which they want anyway due to the new academic index?

What if Fordham decided to force the football scholarship issue with the Patriot League - deciding that they have nothing to lose? Best case they end up with Hofstra in the Patriot League with full scholarships. If that doesn't work out, they'll either join Hofstra in the Big South, NEC or some other conference, or alternatively end up somehow in the CAA with full scholarships to "replace" Hofstra. In nearly all of these scenarios, Fordham wins.

It's a theory that happens to fit all the facts. But it sure would explain an awful lot.

*****

I don't know if any of this stuff is true or not. Perhaps Hofstra's move to the A-10 is just a pipe dream cooked up by an overambitious basketball coach and some bored sportswriters. Perhaps Fordham's motivations have nothing to do with the Big East and a future affiliation with a Hofstra which is leaving the CAA.

But if there is any hint of truth to these rumors, I would hope that the Patriot League office would be ready to allow scholarships - to allow for this expansion with Hofstra, and (just as importantly) to keep Fordham in the fold.

Losing Fordham would be bad - but losing Fordham and missing out on an opportunity to get Hofstra would be much, much worse. It's the difference between having eight stable league members and league with six members wondering who they possibly could expand with next to replace a member who elected to move to what will be considered "bigger and better things".

Comments

Anonymous said…
maybe Hofstra to the A-10 ignites the return of an A-10 football conference. UMass, URI, Richmond, Fordham , Hofstra (Dayton, Duqunse perhaps) with UNH, Nova, Albany as a few possible assoc. members in ftbl..

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