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By Craig Haley, FCS Exec. Director - Archive - Email
CAA hopes it's drawing toward stability
Towson, led defensively by senior end Frank Beltre,
was selected first in CAA Football's preseason poll.
Baltimore, MD (Sports Network) - Ah, what a lovely neighborhood.

Plenty of successful and influential people. Money, outstanding facilities. Even the All-America boy(s) next door.

So why does everyone in the neighborhood keep looking at each other with awkward suspicion?

It's hard to believe we're talking about CAA Football, once dubbed the SEC of the Football Championship Subdivision.

But some have left the neighborhood. Some are just passing through. Others are still deciding if they want to stay or not.

And as the college football landscape continually changes, no FCS conference has been rocked quite like the CAA.

It all still seems astounding:

* Hofstra and Northeastern dropped football after the 2009 season.

* Massachusetts left for the Mid-American Conference this year.

* Rhode Island is expected to drop to the Northeast Conference next year.

* Old Dominion, a second-year member, is headed to Conference USA next year.

* Georgia State, a first-year member, will be in the Sun Belt Conference.

It's a great conference more resembling a concussed quarterback than one throwing game-winning touchdowns.

But now, after the many blows in recent years, there might be some resolution in the near future.

"I think sometime before September there will be announcements made and we'll kind of find out the direction the conference is going," Delaware coach K.C. Keeler said at the CAA's football media day on Wednesday at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens.

"Delaware wants to be one of the stabilizing forces in this conference. From what I understand, I think when some announcements are made before the start of the season, I think we'll all feel pretty good where this conference is going."

As a few alums of CAA Football who are part of the Ravens' roster can attest, including former Delaware quarterback Joe Flacco, there's some pretty good action in this eastern seaboard conference, which now has a southern base after starting out in 1947 up north as the Yankee Conference. In fact, Maine and New Hampshire will be the final two of the original six members after Rhode Island departs for the NEC.

Or if URI departs. There's still hope around the conference that URI could reverse course and decide to remain a member of the CAA. That ironically might mean some other NEC members, such as Albany or Bryant, could join the conference, or Stony Brook could find a place at the table, ensuring more of a northern mix.

Other southern schools like Davidson, maybe even Appalachian State (but probably not), are in the conversation.



CAA commissioner Tom Yeager, wanting to have some decisions sooner rather than later, said there is no ideal number of schools as long as it remains nine or above to ensure eight conference games

"It is kind of interesting that we've had everything," he said. "We'd had people drop football, kind of restrict it a little bit with the scholarship numbers and move up. As far as the guys moving up, time will tell whether it was a good move or whatever."

"I'm a big fan of the 12 (teams), six and six (in north and south divisions)," said Maine coach Jack Cosgrove, who's as old-guard as they come in CAA Football. "I think that's an easier sell to the presidents because of the geographical alignments. I can throw a couple names at you right now, teams that we could plug in at you right now. I'll probably get in trouble for saying it."

James Madison coach Mickey Matthews calls the many CAA changes "a part of modern football." But it says a lot that a conference with CAA's stature has faced such upheaval.

It's still possible the worst is not over, too. Villanova remains on the Big East's radar for football, although that FBS conference has put the Wildcats program on hold for well over a year and hasn't made their candidacy a priority.

"We feel like it's important for us to concentrate on being a CAA team," Villanova coach Andy Talley said. "We are still in a position where we are posturing ourselves to be in a position if they came back to us."

Similar to Rhode Island's impending move, New Hampshire's strong program has been considered a candidate to drop to the Patriot League. If that happens, would Maine still hold strong to remaining in the CAA, when charter flights are costing the athletic programs about $80,000 a pop for conference away gams?

That's all an unknown, of course. There's no worry with others, though. Towson, Delaware, James Madison, Richmond and William & Mary are committed to the conference.

"I just think I-AA (FCS) is very fluid," Rhode Island coach Joe Trainer said. "I was laughing earlier, my first year (at URI) I was down here (at CAA media day) with (UMass') Kevin Morris and (Hofstra's) Dave Cohen and (Northeastern's) Rocky Hager. I'm only going into my fourth year. Who would have thought in that time things would have changed that dramatically?"

One program not seeking much change from last season is Towson, the defending CAA champion. The Tigers were installed as the favorite in the conference's preseason poll, ahead of Old Dominion. It's a big difference from last season, when Towson was picked last in the poll, one spot ahead of ODU.

"There's not a whole lot of stock to be put in to how you start. You can have the poll in a NASCAR race, but it's how you finish that matters," said Towson coach Rob Ambrose, whose team features sophomore running back Terrance West, senior defensive end Frank Beltre and senior safety Jordan Dangerfield on the All-CAA preseason team.

"We went from being picked second-to-last to second-from-first," ODU coach Bobby Wilder said with a laugh. His team, not eligible for the conference title because of its impending departure, is represented on the preseason team by sophomore quarterback Taylor Heinicke, junior wide receiver Nick Meyers, senior defensive tackle Chris Burnette, senior linebacker Craig Wilkins and senior punter Jonathan Plisco.

CAA FOOTBALL PRESEASON POLL

(Head Coaches and Sports Information Directors)

1. Towson, 12 first-place votes

2. Old Dominion, 7

3. James Madison, 1

4. New Hampshire, 2

5. Delaware

6. Maine

7. William & Mary

8. Villanova

9. Richmond

10. Rhode Island

11. Georgia State

PRESEASON ALL-CAA FOOTBALL TEAM

Offensive Player of the Year - Terrance West, RB, Towson

Defensive Player of the Year - Matt Evans, LB, New Hampshire

Offense

QB - Taylor Heinicke, Old Dominion, So.

RB - Andrew Pierce, Delaware, Jr.

RB - Terrance West, Towson, So.

FB - Brian Barlow, James Madison, Sr.

WR - Nick Mayers, Old Dominion, Sr.

WR - Maurice McDonald, Maine, Sr.

WR - Nihja White, Delaware, Sr.

TE - Justin Perillo, Maine, Jr.

OL - Ricky Archer, New Hampshire, Jr.

OL - Chris Howley, Maine, Sr.

OL - Dan Shirey, Villanova, Sr.

OL - Josh Spearin, Maine, Sr.

OL - Earl Watford, James Madison, Sr.

Defense

DL - Frank Beltre, Towson, Sr.

DL - Chris Burnette, Old Dominion, Sr.

DL - Michael Cole, Maine, Jr.

DL - Antoine Lewis, Villanova, Jr.

LB - Matt Evans, New Hampshire, Sr.

LB - Darius McMillan, Richmond, Sr.

LB - Stephon Robertson, James Madison, Jr.

LB - Craig Wilkins, Old Dominion, Sr.

LB - Paul Worrilow, Delaware, Sr.

S - Jordan Dangerfield, Towson, Sr.

S - Brian Thompson, William & Mary, Sr.

CB - Travis Hawkins, Delaware, Jr.

CB - B.W. Webb, William & Mary, Sr.

Special Teams

PK - Sean Baner, Delaware, Jr.

P - Jonathan Plisco, Old Dominion, Sr.

RS - Dae'Quan Scott, James Madison, Jr.


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