Another CAA Football Media Day has come and gone. Today’s event took place at M&T Bank Stadium in lovely Baltimore, Maryland and it unofficially kicked off the 2015 CAA Football season. Or preseason. In any case, it’s finally time to start talking football.
The highlight of the event is the release of the CAA Preseason Poll and All CAA Teams. As we expected, Villanova, JMU, and New Hampshire took the top three spots. Nova is a deserving pick. The Wildcats return a wealth of talent including the reigning Walter Payton Award winning and 2014 All CAA First Team QB, John Robertson. The team managed to finish second in the league last year, with a record of 11-3 overall and 7-1 in CAA play. UNH won the CAA last season and earned the #1 overall seed in the FCS playoffs before bowing out in the semifinals. New Hampshire hasn’t missed the playoffs since before JMU won its National Championship.
Our beloved Dukes were picked to finish second in the league. After a slow start last year, JMU rallied behind the play of do everything QB Vad Lee. As great a season as John Robertson had, Lee was right there with him. With a full (record setting) season under his belt, Lee could be even better this year. JMU will be replacing several key players on defense however. Realistically, you could make an argument for picking JMU, UNH, or Nova first and no reasonable person would disagree. Any one of those teams could win the league, as could a W&M or UR if they catch a few breaks.
In only its second year in the league, poor Elon was picked to finish dead last behind the eternally struggling Rhode Island Rams. Elon didn’t win a game last year and is probably the only team in the league that actually wishes Georgia State was around. The full predicted order of finish can be found here.
In addition to the Preseason Poll, the Preseason All CAA Teams were also announced. Villanova picked up both the Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year, which were predicted to go to John Robertson and linebacker Don Cherry respectively. The Dukes were shut out defensively (cough, Taylor Reynolds, cough), but tight end Deane Cheatham and lineman Mitch Kirsch were honored with offensive selections.
Preseason honors are fun, but essentially pointless. JMU will need to earn a spot at the top of the league and a playoff bid that typically goes with it on Saturdays this Fall. Likewise, there are more than a few Dukes who could play their way onto the postseason All CAA teams. John Robertson is a worthy honoree, but he’s by no means a lock for any postseason honors. As we all know, Vad is rad and UNH’s Sean Goldrich have the talent to put up big numbers all year. There is plenty of talent across the board in the CAA this season. And it’s almost time to watch it in action.
And just like that, the worst part of the year (basically everything from KB’s team’s season ending to now) is over. And as much as we’re tempted to make a CAA joke, the truth is we always get excited again when the season arrives and as usual, JMU is no lock to dominate anything in CAA Football. Feels like we’ve barely been paying attention or even finished our beach trips this summer, but the hype season is upon us, and before you know it, summer camp begins back in the ‘Burg!
Today (Tuesday) is Media Day at CAA HQ in Baltimore (that joke is getting harder to resist), and you can follow along for the JMU portion here. There’s a cool “ask Vad a twitter question” option in which we’ll try our best to avoid asking about conference realignment scuttlebutt. And it’s always exciting to hear Coach Withers – pretty sure he won’t miss the chance to tout the seven former Dukes headed to NFL Training Camp next week which actually will be cool to hear.
In any case, this also means we’ll have some actual meat on the bones to pick at come Wednesday! At least some preseason All-CAA teams, coaches’ picks, and maybe the last word on Jimmy ‘effin Moreland (we will miss you on the field). Plus the early volleys in the Vad Lee/John Robertson battle for all the trophies.
— Ish Hyman (@HollyWood_Ish13) July 20, 2015
Odell Beckham Jr. turned heads last year as a rookie in the NFL with a rather unusual pre-game warmup routine. Prior to each game ODB Jr. ran routes and caught passes like practically every other receiver ever. But he caught the passes exclusively with one hand. It was pretty neat and helped prepare him to make one of the most spectacular catches of all time. But he never did it on a bicycle. JMU’s Ish Hyman did however.
The redshirt sophomore receiver was having some fun yesterday when he posted this video. Actually he tweeted it at ODB Jr. We now can sit back and see if there’s a response. Beckham has been known to playfully call out stars via social media and might actually respond to one up Ish. I’m hoping that he posts a video of himself catching a football one handed while riding a unicyle on a surfboard and kicking a shark.
Barring further news, this will be our last complainy post of the summer as we get ready to shift into preseason hype mode. But at least we’ll do this in short form and hopefully with a bit of levity. As the undisputed national model for engaged monitoring, we thought we should start the week with the Top Ten things JMU is best at monitoring:
10) Fan reaction to new, creepy versions of Duke Dog
9) How many more years they can tell the alums/donors that want to hear it that we’re “well-positioned” with a straight face
8) Whether enough tailgaters complain after the annual opening-game crackdown to allow fun again each year.
7) How quickly schools paying the Full Cost of Attendance stipend gain a massive recruiting advantage or are better positioned for FBS. Seriously, we’re monitoring this. But we have to admit if that choice of words was intentional and Bourne’s just trolling us, that’s some next-level work there.
6) The “down in front” crowd’s wishes on start times (we’re actually kidding on this one as the Gameday Experience survey seems like a good thing and we’re generally pleased with start times this year Nova game notwithstanding, but we do hate the down-in-fronters.
5) Whether Old Dominion generates any excitement from HOSTING NC State this year.
4) Cranky, whining blog-dorks and message board morons, but while JMU will monitor us, it’s probably not a bad thing they don’t make decisions based on us
3) The value that former peer George Mason places on a head’s men’s basketball coach given the A-10’s significantly higher conference profile (if you don’t feel like clicking it’s 5 years/3.5 Million).
2) App. St. and Georgia Southern battling for the Sun Belt crown in their first eligible season and the G5’s automatic ticket to a big bowl. They play the Thursday night ESPN game at ASU October 22nd (always a weak time slot with nobody watching -ha). But don’t worry, moving up was a mistake for them according to some at Just Monitoring University.
1) the status, or lack thereof, of momentum and fan morale
The University of Maryland recently announced they’ll be adding beer and wine to the concessions menu, even for the proletariat, at Byrd Stadium for football game. The Terps are joining a growing nationwide trend at college venues to take a shot at extra revenue even with the obvious moral hazards presented by selling booze to a crowd that is particularly rife with underage ticket-holders. What do you think, should the Dukes get in on that sweet action?
As we mentioned last week, JMU’s CAA league mates, College of Charleston and Towson, announced that they’ll begin providing scholarship athletes with cost of attendance (COA) stipends. The DNR’s Matt Jones reached out to JMU Athletic Director Jeff Bourne yesterday to get his thoughts and some insight into how JMU will handle the situation. Bourne said that “at this point we’re better off monitoring and watching what happens at a national level with cost of attendance through this fall.” Yes, he said “monitoring.” I can’t decide if he just talks that way or if he’s openly trolling message board folks now.
COA is a sticky issue. It’s one thing when P5 programs generate multi-million dollar surpluses from athletics and decide to spread the wealth. It’s another thing with schools that have athletic programs not operating in the red and generating the overwhelming majority of their athletic revenues directly from student fees. In that situation, paying COA is essentially like having students write checks to their classmates.
Bourne notes that many conferences haven’t decided what to do about COA and that justifies JMU taking its time. He’s not completely wrong. However, with Towson and CofC biting the bullet, and UNCW seeminly poised to join them, it looks like paying COA is inevitable. JMU can probably only kick the can down the road for so long. Eventually, the price of doing business is just going to go up and they’ll have to get on board. Failing to do so while other CAA teams up the ante, will put JMU at a competitive disadvantage.
JMU estimates that COA stipends will amount to about $4,180 per athlete. That’s a grand total of about $900K/year. That doesn’t seem like too much compared to the millions JMU has spent, and wants to continue to spend, on facilities. The Dukes already spend $37 million a year on athletics, the most of any FCS program. That’s both staggering and sort of depressing.
At a certain point, this spending just becomes unreasonable for an athletic program of JMU’s stature. The school needs to find a way to seriously boost revenue or start being a little more judicious with the spending. Obviously, a lot of fans will immediately pull the “Go FBS” card. That might be a solution. There needs to be a back-up plan though. JMU simply can’t afford (literally) to spend like this while patiently waiting for an FBS opportunity to present itself. Adding more costs to an already swelled budget, without creating new revenue streams is just unwise. JMU is probably going to have pay COA eventually. Ducking the issue in the press with political speak is fine, provided of course, that there is a real plan to fund things being developed in the background. This is one issue the school can’t just monitor.
While the rest of us spend out summers doing whatever it is we do, the members of the JMU football program are putting in work. Practice hasn’t kicked off yet, but strength training and conditioning are in full effect. And as you can see in the above video, it’s not something the players are taking lightly.
True to his word, Coach Withers has the guys competing at everything they do. For some reason someone has chosen to compete in his skivvies and a Superman cape, but that’s a topic for another day. With only a few short months until football season, this is one of those videos that makes me run through a brick wall. Well, that’s not true. But it does have me pumped up enough that I feel like I could run a 6.2 forty or lift 150 pounds.
The full football schedule was released last week and we’ll be covering that in a bit more detail soon, but today we just wanted to touch briefly on a couple of other recent developments around JMU Athletics.
First, the good news, or at least what we assume to be good news. JMU announced the hiring of Marlin Ikenberry to become the new leader of the Diamond Dukes and mercifully replace the [too] long-tenured Spanky McFarland. Needless to say, he’s got his work cut out for him after the otherworldly malaise of the last few years. Ikenberry’s record doesn’t shine on the surface, but even being in the .500 ballpark at a place like VMI is damned good and we’re hearing anecdoctally that he had a great reputation with players down in Lexington and he’s clearly plugged into the Virginia recruiting pipelines. It can’t get much worse than the last few years so we’re choosing to be excited about the hire. Plus, we don’t need to tell you that the name Ikenberry just screams “rootin’!”
Next, some much more concerning news out of the greater CAA. Despite the CAA’s general ideological opposition to paying Cost of Attendance Stipends (or being relevant in any way actually) even in limited sports, the conference’s membership agreed this year that the decision would be left up to each individual member school. Didn’t take long for JMU to fall behind the pack as UNCW, Towson, and College of Charleston have all announced they’ll be paying such stipends beginning immediately in some form or another. Really, forget falling further behind former “peers” like App. St. or GMU and just get used to the fact our walk in the wilderness may only be just beginning. Look, like most halfway considerate fans, we’re not all that comfortable with this idea generally or at JMU specifically, but seriously – what the hell is the purpose of massive investment in shiny new facilities if you’re going to cheap out on this and just admit you’re falling into a massive competitive disadvantage (and don’t forget Liberty is going FCOA across the board because they can afford it)? If JMU is going to stay in the CAA forever so be it, but if they’re going to continue talking about being the “national model” for anything other than monitoring the situation, don’t they at least have to keep up with their conference mates?
Last week we learned that Dante Sterling was transferring out of JMU after redshirting as a freshman. Matt Brady wasted no time replacing him on the roster. Ramone Snowden, who played for Niagra the past two years, has officially transferred to JMU. Snowden led the Purple Eagles in rebounding and was second on the team in scoring last season. He averaged 10.7 points and 6 boards a game.
Snowden appears to be a pretty good get at this stage of the game. He provided an inside presence for a relatively small Niagra squad. However, at 6’6″ and 210 pounds, he’ll most likely play more on the wing for JMU. According to what we’ve read, he’s a versatile player who can play down low and shoot from the outside. He apparently had the green light for the Purple Eagles, launching a team high 126 attempts from behind the arc. He managed to hit just 34% of them however. His versatility could definitely open things up for his teammates and help provide secondary scoring though.
Snowden will have two years of eligibility remaining and will sit out this upcoming season, per NCAA transfer regulations. He had previously committed to ODU in high school, but went to Niagra after failing to meet the Monarch’s academic standards. He was rumored to be considering playing for Liberty or George Mason prior to committing to JMU.
We’re both traveling this week plus there just ain’t much going on, but a few quick items to get your JMU fix:
– C.J. Sapong has bounced back from his off-field struggles to tear things up on the field lately. He’s scoring in bunches now for the Philly Union and led them to a win over MLS front-runners Seattle last week.
– AD Jeff Bourne sent out a solid follow-up to the gameday experience survey including disclosing a fact we definitely agree with. Namely, that kickoff times between 3-6 p.m. are the best. Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of those in the near future.
– Finally, it’s June 30th, 2015, do you know where your “comprehensive plan to strengthen JMU’s ‘national’ athletics brand” is?