May 1 / Rob

Potential ODU Move Puts CAA on the Brink

According to Lenn Robbins of the NY Post, today was supposed to be the day that VCU and GMU headed to the Atlantic 10. It’s after 10:00 PM as I type this and I think it’s safe to say that prediction is going to be proven false. Of course today could end up being a pretty important day in the CAA’s history anyway thanks to the news that  ODU could be on its way to Conference USA. Robbins’ May 1 deadline might have been off, that doesn’t mean VCU and GMU still won’t end up in the A10 eventually. Butler apparently is on its way, which will bring the league to 14 teams. Adding VCU and GMU would bring it to 16 and solidify the A10 as the cream of the mid-major crop. If Charlotte jumps ship for C-USA, that A10 would have to add a third school. You can bet it won’t be JMU because the A10 doesn’t play football and JMU basketball, well, you know.

It’s All In How You Look At It

There are a million ways to look at these latest developments. When you get down to it though, it basically comes down to either believing the sky is falling or refusing to believe anything at all until official announcements are made. With most things JMU related, I try to take the long view and stay away from the doomsday preppers. It’s pretty hard to do that after the ODU news though. This could be bad for JMU. Really bad. VCU and Mason leaving for the A10 would definitely hurt CAA hoops. As much as I love college basketball, I’ve always believed that football was driving the ship for JMU athletics. I guess I’ve been resolved to the notion that sooner or later, JMU would make a move for football and leave the CAA behind anyway. And for whatever reason, I guess I also let myself believe in this myth that ODU and JMU had some sort of alliance and would be looking to move up together. Clearly, that isn’t the case. And it probably was foolish to ever believe it was.

The Positive Spin

If ODU bolts, they’ll be ineligible to get the CAA’s FCS playoffs autobid. That’s the best I can do folks.

Looking Out for Number One

Whether these are all baseless rumors or not, the CAA is in trouble. Maybe VCU and Mason really weren’t going to jump ship. The rumors that they might apparently set the wheels in motion for ODU though. And now that ODU seems have one foot out the back door, things could spiral out of control. Why stick around to see how things shake out if your VCU or GMU? Head to safer waters where there is no threat of football tearing your conference apart. Every AD in the CAA has got to be on red alert. It’s like a giant game of liar’s poker. Everyone says things are fine and they’re committed to the CAA. Do you really believe that enough to run the risk of being caught holding the bag if more schools hit the road? I certainly wouldn’t if I was an AD. I’d be working hard to find a new home for my school ASAP.

Did Jeff Bourne Kick This Snowball Down the Hill?

Poke around the internet for long enough and you’ll find folks speculating on practically any subject you can imagine. You’re probably not going to find any evidence linking JMU to a potential FBS conference though. That doesn’t mean an invite isn’t possible, or even on the way. It’s just not encouraging. And the unfortunate irony here for JMU fans is that Jeff Bourne might have set this whole thing in motion. JMU invested tens of millions of dollars building the finest FCS football stadium in the land. Doing so led to plenty of talk about how the Dukes were looking to move on up in the world of college football. Then last year Jeff Bourne makes it unofficially official by flat out saying that he fully expects JMU to move to the FBS within 18-24 months. Is it possible that those comments and the massive investment in facilities kicked other CAA schools’ contingency planning into over-drive? It would make a lot of sense for non-football schools, like say VCU and GMU, to begin working the phones to find a new dance partner after that. And that could make other schools, like say ODU, nervous and prompt them to make a move. And here we are.

It’s the Market Stupid

With all due respect to ODU’s football program and the tremendous success they had last year, their potential move to FBS has nothing to do with wins and losses. It’s the market. Hampton-Roads might not be New York City, but it’s a large area with a sizable population and no other major college or professional franchise. It’s a better media market that the Shenandoah Valley. And that is why ODU is attracting FBS interest after only one year in the FCS. Either that or their AD is just outperforming Jeff Bourne. Or perhaps worst of all, maybe Bourne is doing a great job and aggressively pursuing opportunities with every FBS conference in the land and there is just zippy interest. Pick your poison. All 3 scenarios suck.

What’s Next?

There is a chance that all of these rumors are baseless and nobody is leaving the CAA. I hope that’s the case. The CAA is a great league. I’ve always felt that it was better to play football rivals like William & Mary, Richmond, and lately ODU, than to chart a course for a lower tier FBS league. If a couple schools leave and set off a chain reaction though, it could mean that JMU gets trapped in a league of scraps. Or it could mean that the league implodes completely. JMU needs to get aggressive and beg, borrow, and steal its way into a FBS league. The MAC has never been high on many fans’ lists, but it might be the most attractive option right now. And if FBS leagues are slamming doors, then JMU needs to lead the CAA charge to poach other FCS leagues. Swap App State for ODU and convince at least one of VCU or GMU to stay, and the CAA will be no worse for the wear. If ODU, VCU, and GMU head for the exits though, JMU needs to jump before they get caught holding the bag.



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  1. Sdubs / May 2 2012

    “Pick your poison. All 3 scenarios suck.”

    This essence of this sentence encapsulates JMU athletics. Sigh.

  2. Todd / May 2 2012

    Also, come join us at the Coach’s Caravan alumni event Thursday at The Boulevard Woodgrill in Clarendon. Bourne scheduled to appear. Should be interesting.

  3. hi / May 2 2012

    We’re screwed unless something happens fast. Conference USA is ridiculously huge (I also heard a number of other schools are joining in addition to ODU) and probably has no more room for a JMU type school.

    I’ve never shared the belief that being a top tier FCS school is better than being a bottom tier FBS school, and here’s why: nothing you can possibly accomplish in FCS means anything to anyone. You can beat whatever crappy FBS school (VT for example) you play at the beginning of the season, go undefeated all year long and sweep through the playoffs, and you’ll still be struggling to find out which ESPNU5 channel the national championship is on. And don’t expect to see highlights of any of these playoff victories on Sportscenter, even at 4am it wouldn’t crack a headline.

    I know the typical counter argument: being FBS has never helped schools like WKU and Tulsa garner any success. The difference is: they actually have a chance. Boise State (I’m aware they’re the exception and not the rule) proved that you still have a chance at succeeding nationally if you play your cards right in FBS, even if the odds are stacked against you. As opposed to FCS where you have zero chance at ever amounting to anything.

    Even schools like Toledo and ECU have proven that you can still have an exciting game-day experience, still pull in the occasional high-quality recruit, and still make the occasional bowl game against upper tier competition.

    It’s never been about level of success or quality of football, at any level. It’s about being relevant and actually having a chance. I’d rather have a 1% chance at a quality bowl game than a 0% chance.

  4. donnie parr / May 2 2012

    I’m an ECU alumnus and television market drives the ship. ESPN is calling the shots in the FBS world. We have a better athletic program, better facilities, better ticket sales, etc. than all of the schools from C-USA who got invited to join the “Big East”. We asked to join and we got sand kicked in our face. They invited “San Diego State” to join for the love of pete. It’s all about “television market”. None of the other stuff matters. We OWNed Houston, UCF, SMU… Didn’t matter even though it’s a joke. It’s ALL about politics. Even though, ultimately, they decide who lives and who dies. You can work your butts off and do it the right way, it doesn’t matter.

  5. Kevin / May 2 2012

    The potential downstream effects of doing nothing or coming up on the wrong end of this are terrible for the athletic program as a whole. Football pays the bills at JMU. Imagine how many fewer checks they can write if 25K strong becomes 10K? There’s plenty of reason and motivation for Bourne to get this right; we just have to hope that he eventually does.

  6. Matt / May 2 2012

    Would the slow move to a playoff in FBS change anything for the current FCS schools?

    I still feel FBS today will all move towards 16 team conferences in the next 5 or so years, so room for growth for other schools to land someplace.

  7. Sean / May 2 2012

    New plan:

    ODU, JMU, App St, Delaware, GA Southern Charlotte; get up to FBS anyway possible THEN join together and make own conference with lower level FBS schools Marshall, Youngstown State, Ohio, Toledo, Akron, UMASS, and Duke(hehe) so that it is within the rules of the NCAA.

    Side note: I’m serious with 12 of those 13 teams being in a conference together. 2 VA schools, 2 NC school, 4 Ohio schools, with teams in Mass and Georgia and the geographical middle Delaware would not be bad at all compared to CUSA.

  8. Sean / May 2 2012

    Two schools I’ve always loved the idea of adding is Lehigh and Lafayette, one of the oldest and best rivalries in sports. That’s more of an adding to the CAA idea cause I don’t think those schools would wanna
    Move up

  9. Coach Priz / May 2 2012

    These are obviously tough times for JMU athletics going forward. JMU clearly made a choice to focus on football. I believed at the time that this choice was misguided. Football is expensive and always will be. The programs that make money off football are Notre Dame, Texas, Michigan etc. I think JMU has to look at a school like Marshall or Miami of Ohio for comparison and I would be surprised if either of those schools make money on football. Perhaps the idea of building the football program isn’t just about the money. Perhaps, administrators felt that building the program would raise the quality of matriculating students and the extra cost of football makes is worth it.
    If Bourne et al has a plan that they need to show their hand because I think JMU is in a precarious position. Football lost money in 2011 (fiscal year ending 6/30/11) as did every other sport. Perhaps the new stadium brought in that much more money without significantly increasing costs. I don’t know. I just wonder if the apparent implosion of the CAA is going to reveal the gamble on FCS football to be a loser.

    for reference:

  10. 2004 Duke / May 2 2012


    You are on crack. go to youtube and look up JMU on sportscenter. You will find at least 3 clips in the SC top 10. Additionally, almost all our playoffs games have been on ESPN for the last 8 years.

    I’d rather play 3 or 4 meaningful playoff games than 1 rediculous, meaningless bowl game in BFE, America against North Texas which none of us will attend.

    Unless we go to the ACC or Big East when they expand to 20 teams in a few years, I’d rather play William & Gary, the Ticks and the Powder Blue Chickens. They are good games, good rivalries, and I work with a lot of their alumni, which makes it meaningful. If JMU could fill the stadium every week and be televised on Comcast or Fox Sports every saturday, I’d be perfectly happy where we are. As long as we don’t suck like the basketball team.

  11. Rob / May 2 2012

    2004 Duke, I would prefer to continue to play rivalry games against W&M, UR, Delaware, etc and compete in the playoffs also. And while I don’t see UR or W&M ever making the jump to FBS, I am starting to doubt that they wouldn’t each jump to a more stable FCS conference (Southern, Patriot,etc) if given the chance. Things are changing fast and JMU can’t count on every other CAA team sitting tight, especially when Bourne makes comments about JMU’s desire to move up.

  12. Todd / May 2 2012

    One huge facepalm note. Bourne and half the admin are in court in NY this week testifying in the Brady/Marist case. So fitting.

  13. Jays / May 2 2012

    2004 Duke, you are on crack. A MAC championship would mean more national exposure than an FCS National Title. FCS is a fun thing to watch, but when it comes to exposure, it is nothing. Nobody knew who were were after the 2004 NC. A few people knew who we were when we beat Tech. We will get to play against more ranked teams OOC, and increase our national exposure by moving to FBS. The only meaningless games are the ones played in FCS, where nobody watches.

  14. White Hall / May 3 2012

    According to this morning’s Virginian-Pilot (Hampton Roads local paper), ODU, JMU and Delaware were approached at the Final Four about moving to C-USA. I really hope our AD did not decline and JMU is still under consideration. Otherwise, we’re off to the MAC or God forbid, the Sun Belt.

  15. Rob / May 3 2012

    Wow. That’s the first published report I’ve seen stating that any FBS conference had been in contact with JMU. I still would rather see CAA survive, but playing that C-USA division with ODU, ECU, etc would be pretty cool.

  16. Todd / May 3 2012

    An eastern division with ODU, ECU, Marshall, Memphis, and possibly Delaware, with a visit every once in a while from Houston, Rice, and SMU? Yeah, that would be pretty Airwolf. If true, I hope they didn’t say no outright, either. At least take time to get Alger installed and discuss whether we could support the additional scholarships.

  17. tedward / May 3 2012

    All I want:
    1.) A JMU game day experience where the tailgating is fun
    a.) normally that means having a winning team
    b.) who they play in what league doesn’t matter to me

    Problems we have:
    1.) Title IX
    a.) title 9 works off of the student population. We have 60% female, so our sports have to reflect that. If we jump up to FBS, then we add football scholarships, which forces us to add more women scholarships also($$$).
    2.) Location
    b.) Harrisonburg isn’t a “TV Market”, as stated by someone else. There are exceptions, but we’re screwed right now
    3.) ODU
    a.) their market is huge
    b.) is the state big enough for 4 FBS schools? Not sure, definitely not 4 good ones
    4.) FCS
    a.) how long is it going to last? I feel like it’s going to die soon.

    1.) I have none.

  18. 91Duke / May 4 2012

    In my mind, there are really two options at this point: (i) join C-USA if offered, or (ii) try to cobble together an ongoing FCS football league by poaching other schools (App St, Furman, Liberty, etc). Under no circumstance should we consider joining up with the MAC. Our attendance is almost 20% higher than any of the current MAC schools. That league is an pathetic (and apathetic) suckhole of travel and Title IX dollars. It presents us nothing in terms of benefit (other than the potential of seeing Western, Central AND Eastern Michigan all in the same year). It’s a lovely state, Michigan.

    Looking at Tedward’s post above (I know you, Tedward), I’m not sure I understand how I-AA ceases to exist, but perhaps that would be the best thing to happen to us if it did (and we were still I-AA). Would the NCAA allow all of the I-AA schools to ‘go under’ and stop playing football? Or would it be more likely that they’d allow a one-time concession to permit I-AA schools to form up a new conference in I-A?

    There are just so many permutations to this, it makes my head hurt.

  19. tedward / May 4 2012

    I have no insider knowledge to FCS (I-AA) going away. It’s just an observation from afar. Outside of the CAA, I just don’t see a lot of conferences that care about the FCS. I would bet that 30 schools actually care about football in the FCS and 20 make the playoffs. If ten schools jump to FBS level, I just don’t know what’s going to happen. If you want to stay in division 1 hoops, and you have football; I believe you have to be in division 1 football (that’s why 1-AA exist). Seems like a stupid rule nowadays.

  20. 2004 Duke / May 4 2012

    “2004 Duke, you are on crack. A MAC championship would mean more national exposure than an FCS National Title. ”

    I totally disagree. Ask anyone who the MAC champions from the last 5-10 seasons and I bet they can’t tell you. Actually, I challenge readers to even name all the teams in the MAC without looking them up. People across the country can at least tell you that Delaware, Crappy Appy, Montana and JMU are good football schools. If you said “who is the cream of the MAC crop?”, most wouldn’t even have a clue.

    Note- I realize “Cream of the MAC crop” is a big oxymoron.

  21. Matt / May 4 2012


    I agree with you 100%. I like playing on Saturday afternoons – not on a Wednesday nights at midnight, which is when the MAC seems to play all their games. Remaining 1-AA is a far better option for us than a move to the MAC. Take away the travel and other headaches that go along with your entire conference being concentrated almost entirely in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana (with some outliers), but the MAC just plain sucks. It has the lowest attendance of any FBS conference (17K per game). If that is our only FBS option, then I completely agree that we ought to be cherry picking FCS schools (Appy, Furman, Liberty- hell, even Eastern Kentucky or one of those directional Tennessee schools) and keep the CAA alive for a while longer until a better alternative presents itself. There will be a ton of churn in FBS in the next 3-5 years. I really don’t think we need to jump to the MAC out of panic. If C-USA is still an option, then I might re-think it.

    Just as an FYI – here are the home football attendance figures for the MAC this year. We outdraw almost every one of them by 5,000+ per game.

    Team Average

    Central Michigan 15,291
    Toledo 22,157
    Ohio 19,891
    Northern Illinois 18,903
    Kent State 11,587
    Eastern Michigan 4,267
    Miami 16,174
    Western Michigan 19,985
    Bowling Green 15,007
    Buffalo 18,020
    Akron 15,734
    Ball State 15,064

  22. Rob / May 5 2012

    To be clear, I was only suggesting the MAC as a contingency in case the CAA blew up. I’ll concede it was a bit of a panic statement and you’ve convinced me that it’s not a good option. I forgot that they play those awful midweek games. My preference is to stay in the CAA and move “up” if JMU can find a way to maintain existing rivalries by doing so, i.e. find a conference w/UD, ODU, etc.

  23. Matt / May 5 2012

    Rob –

    I understood what you were saying – I was just agreeing with 2004 in his dust up with Jays that the financial and travel headaches probably aren’t worth whatever limited upside there is in joining the MAC. BUT, if the MAC is a necessary (but temporary) safe harbor/stepping stone to a better FBS conference (perhaps the “new” conference that evreyone here seems to like the idea of), then we ought to think about that too. It may well turn out that we don’t have any better options if the CAA implodes and we can’t cobble together something viable.

    Does anyone know what the buyout is for leaving the MAC?

  24. Matt / May 5 2012

    One other thing – the MAC is one of the few FBS conferences we could step in day one and compete in. I think we tend to underestimate the growing pains (and losses) that are going to come with a jump to most FBS conferences.

  25. White Hall / May 5 2012

    I agree with everyone that the MAC is not ideal or even preferred. However, it’s just not realistic to expect to jump from FCS to a BCS conference in one jump. We need the MAC (or C-USA, if offered) as a stepping stone to a BCS conference, assuming that’s the long-term goal. If not, then staying with the CAA would be better than the MAC, even if ODU does leave the CAA.

  26. Sunchase / May 7 2012

    In this day and age, what really “matters” and “doesn’t matter” anyway? often times, it seems like national championships and BCS bowl bids are the only thing that do… so in that respect, I’m not sure that it matters if we move to the C-USA, MAC, or stay in the CAA. Realistically, we have no chance of winning any of those things in probably the next 20 years, minimum.

    So I think I’d rather stay in FCS, be a powerhouse, and have a legitimate shot to win a 1AA national championship once every four-year cycle. JB doesn’t exactly have a track record of going out and making bold decisions (hence the away game playoff scenario last fall). I think his conservative nature lands us in a less-than-optimal spot when the dust settles… obviously I’m hoping and praying otherwise.

  27. maddukes98 / May 9 2012

    DECISION TIME FOR MASON?: CAA may already be in its rear-view mirror, per the Daily Press, “Rumors and whispers of local college conference membership shuffles could see the light of day beginning today, when George Mason’s Board of Visitors holds its final scheduled meeting of the school year. Mason and VCU are considering a jump to the Atlantic 10 Conference from the Colonial Athletic Association. VCU and George Mason seek upgrades for their men’s basketball programs from a CAA that some within the respective camps view as excessively football-centric in recent years.”

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