May 17 / Todd

What the Death of the Real CAA Means for JMU

ODU formally announced they are accepting their invitation to Conference USA today.  They will be joining in all sports except football beginning Summer 2013 and for football in 2015. Obviously this is disappointing, concerning, disturbing, and largely just plain sad for JMU fans.  To watch a school we wouldn’t wipe our feet with academically that just started football three years ago pass us by and leave us holding our shiny new stadium (and our dicks) just makes you feel like some big meathead kid stole your middle-school girlfriend.

There are a million JMU angles to cover from this story and we need to credit the following Twitter folks (schools they cover or are associated with in parens) in advance for ripping off some of today’s best material: @BGMull (UNCW), @defiantlydutch (Hofstra), @caahoops, @MarkRSelig (JMU), @ChrisMottram (GMU), @CAArleigh (JMU/CAA), @SeanDKennedy (CAA Norfolk angle), @batogato (W&M), @Brian_Ewart (Nova), @Gheorghetheblog (W&M), @FairbankDP (ODU), @Dukie95 (JMU), @ry_hudson (JMU), @CurtDudley (JMU), @NUHF (Northeastern), @D1scource.  Thanks to all of you for making today a little more light-hearted than it otherwise might have been.

Here are the important links for your consideration:

The Norfolk view of the move.  What this story fails to mention is that in addition to the $250,000 exit fee for the CAA, ODU is on the hook for a $2.5M entrance fee to CUSA, and you know, the added forty five or so scholarships (jump in football from FCS to FBS plus accompanying jump in women’s schollies to remain compliant with Title IX).  So that’s really nice that ODU claims they’ve raised $3M in private donations and won’t be raising student fees, but that’s close to $5M a year increase for a fledgling program already in the hole from startup costs who plays in an ancient p.o.s. stadium with no parking and little chance of short-term expansion or increased revenue streams.  Good Gosh!  Bet the Virginia General Assembly’s going to be thrilled if ODU comes looking for a handout ten years from now!

For reference’s sake, here’s an amazing chart from USA Today that breaks down the finances of 227 schools.  That “% subsidized” column on the end represents the percentage of that school’s athletics budget that comes from student fees.  You will notice that the Virginia schools have some of the highest percentages in the nation.  But before you go freaking out and calling your local Tea Party rep, you need to hear the whole story.  As it turns out Virginia is one of the only states that doesn’t allow it’s public schools to pad their athetic budgets with money from the university’s general fund (i.e. tuition).  In other states, schools just steal from their academic funds to pay for sports and don’t have to tell anyone.  At least at JMU  it’s honest and transparent that thet is where your student fees are largely going.  You can always vote with your feet by going somewhere else, but you’d be a dumbass because even after these fees, JMU is one of the best values in public higher education in the country when you compare it with the tuition at other schools (tuition, by the way, that is presumably inflated by having to unknowingly subsidize athletics).

The CAA’s statement on the matter from Commissioner Tom Yeager.  The highlight here are that he believes the dust has finally settled for this year and the CAA can now aggressively pursue new members.  Those rumored to be at the top of the list include Stony Brook (solid football in a solid location for growth and would please the football-only affiliate members up north), Davidson (has football and more suited academically to CAA than their current conference, but why would they leave the cushiness they enjoy in hoops?), UNC-Greensboro (no football, but would be a solid and appeasing rival for UNCW with a large enrollment in a metro area), Coastal Carolina (has football, sucks academically, would be natural rival for UNCW), and College of Charleston (not gonna happen though would make for a nice road trip occassionally).

Yeager also provided the comment that led to my favorite part of the day.  The CAA has a rule in place that when you leave the conference, you are no longer eligible for the CAA Hoops tourney.  He stated that the remaining members would vote on whether to lift the rule for ODU for this year because ODU requested they be allowed to compete since they’ve been such a long-time member.  WAAHHHH, WAAHHHH!  Said @defiantlydutch: ODU wants to be allowed to compete in CAA Hoops tourney next year.  Related: I want $40M dropped from a plane onto my lawn.  That’s chutzpah from ODU.  Like dumping your wife for a trophy blonde and asking if you can still store your stuff at home.

Here is the statement from JMU today and if you read nothing else, read this one.  It’s appropriate and says basically all the things we want to hear.  Of course, one could also snark that what it doesn’t say is “we’re all committed because we’ve got no place else that want our sorry asses.”  It’s also nice that we want to maintain our high standards on the academic side, and if you told me something like, say, JMU and W&M were going to the Patriot League and deemphasizing football, it would be hard to say that’s entirely wrong.  But then again, there’s that shiny new $70M stadium that says that was never the plan but we’ve been derailed by the lack of a television market.

On that note, rest assured we’ll have plenty of time for the knashing of teeth and to debate the merits of the FireJeffBourne crowd this summer and presumably on the occasional fall Saturday without even an internet feed at ghetto Bailey’s/Big Al’s for years to come so we’d kindly ask that we all back off of our Gingrichian reactionary statements and let this breathe for a day or so.  After all, JMU isn’t doing shit this year except trying in vain to convince football recruits JMU remains a better option than the school in Norfolk they don’t have to study to attend.  And it’s not that a long history of things like “@ Eastern Kentucky” don’t make it extremely difficult to trust our AD’s competence, it’s just that there are a lot of ways to look at this and not all of them involve football.  (wait, what the f did I just say?!)

Finally, I loved this from @D1scource today and I think it was echoed well in JMU’s statement on our own mission: “The three most powerful forces in conference realignment are fear, greed, and a myopia that fails to recognize nothing is permanent.”  That last one in particular is what stands out.  If ODU is sure that a nationwide conference of mostly financial losers is going to be around for them in the 2015 college football season, then good for them.  But if JMU wants to consider our own academics, the academics of our conference brethren, and the long-term plan for the university (you know, the EDUCATIONAL institution we all attended), then I’m going to give them a little longer leash to explain JMU’s position and direction.

Okay, that wasn’t the end.  One last thing: I friggin’ hate ODU now.  I fake hated them before, but this is damn miserable and I hope they bankrupt their entire athletic department and they get their ass handed to them every time their women’s basketball team makes an overnight flight to San Antonio or Ruston, Louisiana (as Curt Dudley said, Kenny Brooks’ teams finally ran them right out of the league!). As always  It’s also going to be this blog’s mission from now until this year’s game in the ‘Burg to make ODU’s fans’ trips for that tilt as miserable as humanly possible.  Monarchs: GFY dbags!


28 Comments

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  1. Jason K. / May 17 2012

    Well said – I am proud of JMU’s academic reputation and while I am not completely sure the administration’s lack of action at this point is 100% due to keeping up that rep, I believe some of it is. If it takes some time to figure out what is best then I am willing to give the administration a little bit of a leash.

    As Col. Jessup would say, I want JMU to rip ODU’s eyes out of their heads and piss in their dead skulls come Nov 17th. They f-ed with the wrong school.

  2. White Hall / May 17 2012

    It’s going to be real interesting to see how this will play out for ODU. How will they upgrade their stadium or build a new stadium in three years? To be competitive in football, they will now need to recruit directly against Va Tech, UVa, Penn State, UNC, etc. That will be a tough sell. But the real question is what will JMU do? If the goal is to remain in the FCS, then I think the CAA will be fine. Basketball, on the other hand, has taken a giant step backward. If the goal is to jump to FBS, then our options are very limited, MAC and Sun Belt. Neither is very attractive. The problem is that we have a $70 million stadium that I think we will have a tough time keeping full once the novelty wears off and we are not playing at the FBS level. I really hope our AD has a viable plan.

  3. Matt / May 17 2012

    Ironically, at dinner tonight we opened a bottle of wine we’d had laying around for a while. Those grapes were sour too.

    Good luck to ODU. We’ll hardly miss them because we hardly knew them in football, but our recruiting potential in Tidewater just dried up completely. That’s what will hurt the most about this. We’ll be all NoVa, Maryland and Jersey now.

    While I honestly believe that ODU will look back at 2011 as the high point of their football program, they did what they thought was best for them. More power to ‘em. Any bloviation about academics and media markets is transparent cover for the obvious envy we all feel right now.

    BUT…If we can pull some good (not OK, but good) FCS teams into the CAA (sorry, Stony Brook can suck my ass), then this will work out. If not, it won’t.

    The CAA is pretty much washed up as a basketball conference. The full court press needs to be on to get truly good FCS teams on board to make the CAA the SEC of FCS football. I’m talking App St. good. If our major plan includes Stony Brook and Liberty, we’re done.

  4. CD / May 18 2012

    Sheeesh. ODU just did what JMU would have done. They’re a decent school and I don’t really blame them for upgrading.

  5. Dukie95 / May 18 2012

    CD, I disagree.

    Reading between the lines of JMU’s statement and piecing together other bits of information (rumors) that are out there, I don’t think we would have done the same. We may have, in fact, had the opportunity and said “no”, but we may never know about that.

    Moving to C-USA would have been about football alone, and JMU made a strong statement that football wasn’t going to drive this train. All the other sports would be taking a step back (except for men’s basketball, because well….).

    The CAA is good in baseball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey…just because four letter networks don’t cover them, the JMU administration can’t forget they exist. Many of those sports would likely see a decreased level of competition in C-USA. (The A-10, by the way, really has nothing going for it EXCEPT men’s basketball. VCU basically threw the baby out with the bathwater with their move by putting everything in men’s basketball.)

    That’s not even considering the increased travel and missed class time, for our 400-some student athletes that we don’t watch on Saturdays. They basically told their tennis team, “Yeah, the CAA was good, but now you have to play scrubs, AND they’re further away…go football team!”

    I actually appreciate the more methodical approach of finding the right opportunity, not just the first opportunity. I’d rather wait 3-5 years for a conference that includes JMU, App St., Georgia Southern, Delaware, (Umass?) (ODU?), etc. then spend millions of dollars to on a reactionary move today just because ODU did.

  6. Todd / May 18 2012

    Dukie95 – You are exactly right, I just hope that chance actually materializes at some point and we’re not sitting here talking about JMU’s admin the way Hofstra alums do now while we watch a 60 for 60 on the rise of ODU football someday. I think they will struggle mightily, especially from a facilities standpoint, to continue their current trajectory.

    That said, CD is right about our envy and I tried to convey that tongue in cheek throughout the post. He’s also pretty close on the need for solid football additions to the conference, though reasonable minds can disagree on teams. For one Stony Brook basically is ODU. A large, lower tier (CD- you really can’t defend ODU academically next to JMU) state school in a major metro area – Long Island. Liberty is a much tougher call and despite their potential for major fundraising and their long-term ambition, I too would rather not have them in our conference from a “shared mission” standpoint.

    Actually the biggest concern should be the one we aren’t discussing: ANY conference at ANY level (Big East, CAA, etc.) that has “affiliate members” or where everyonce does not play football is incredibly unstable right now. From a JMU-in-the-CAA standpoint we all need to be advocating for the addition of ONLY schools that will join in all sports. UNCG and/or CofC sound nice but that just diminishes JMU’s voting power in our own league.

  7. Dukie95 / May 18 2012

    With GSU, VCU and ODU gone, the academics of the conference just went up, so I’m not sure CCU is a fit any longer…nor is Liberty, if it ever was.

    Maybe some patriot teams, looking to go full scholarship, would now be targets, like Lehigh?

  8. Dukie95 / May 18 2012

    Todd, if you piece together public statements from JMU, UD, Liberty, App St. They’ve all claimed to have been working on a conference of teams looking to move from FCS to FBS. I have a feeling something is in the works.

    I think ODU was part of that conversation too, which is why JMU claimed to be surprised with ODUs decision to join C-USA.

  9. Shawn / May 18 2012

    Rumors have been spreading of a 10 year lock on all FCS teams to prevent them from moving up to FBS. This was a factor in ODU moving up before they probably should have.

    As an ODU fan, I am still hoping that C-USA offers JMU and Middle Tennessee to bring the league total to 16. JMU makes sense regionally and athletically to be invited.

    A few notes about your post:
    * The entry fee to C-USA is $2 million, not $2.5. Still quite a bit of money though.
    * ODU is planning on adding the additional scholarships over the next 5 years. The NCAA doesn’t put a time frame on how soon you have to be Title IX compliant. They will begin looking to add the women’s sports once ODU football is competing for a C-USA championship (2015).

  10. White Hall / May 18 2012

    I like the idea of a new regional FBS conference but I believe the NCAA will only allow a school to jump from FCS to FBS if invited by a FBS conference.

  11. Double_Duke / May 18 2012

    Thanks for this. The more I digest all of the happenings over the last few weeks and the statement released yesterday from JMU, the more I’m seeing things differently. I am proud to have attended JMU, and I went back to JMU for my MBA for a reason. I respect that JMU puts an emphasis on education and the students first.

    I would rather be JMU in the FCS, with a solid (and growing) reputation as a respectable educational institution, than I would ODU or Troy or UAB or any other institution who is seen as a poor academic university competing in FBS football. Our time will come and I believe that when it does it will be handled in a smart fashion.

  12. cclay / May 18 2012

    Like Shawn, I’m also an ODU fan/alum that wishes JMU could be part of C-USA. Ironically, as much as I love to hate JMU (and all the smug comments from JMU fans about academics), the only sad part about yesterday for me was leaving behind a budding rivalry… Hopefully, whenever the dust settles on all this conference realignment, the end result will once again have ODU and JMU competing in the same conference.

    As for all the comments about ODU’s facilities, don’t be surprised if Foreman Field is expanded to at least 30k in time for ODU’s first year in C-USA… It’s already in the works, as is a plan to expand ODU’s football complex (including a covered practice field adjacent to the complex). I think ODU’s facilities will be just fine.

  13. Les Geaux / May 18 2012

    You are portraying James Madison as an upper echelon Institution when in reality it is nothing more than a mediocre learning institute with an athletics program that is not relevant within the Commonwealth of Virginia. James Madison has been surpassed by Old Dominion in football advancement after only three years of play.

    Did this guy really try to take a stab at women’s basketball? This post screams jealousy.

  14. Joseph / May 18 2012

    There is a whole lot of butthurt displayed above. Perhaps your beloved university isn’t what you think, or perhaps ODU deserves more credit than you give. It matters little. In the big picture both JMU and ODU are irrelevant in academics and athletics.

  15. Jason K. / May 18 2012

    @ Les Geaux, I am guessing you root for LSU. To my knowledge they do have good football teams, but I am wondering how bright they are/were??? Not very most likely. JMU was ranked 160 out of 650 undergraduate institutions in the US by Forbes magazine which is higher than Va Tech, ODU, VCU and many other larger universities including LSU – ranked 440. But yea! LSU has a great football team that was probably put together by bribes, kickbacks, and payoffs.

  16. Rob / May 18 2012

    I think ODU did what it had to do and good for them. I also think JMU is smart to take the long view and wait for an opportunity to join a conference that is a good fit for the entire university and athletic program. ODU fans have a right to be excited and I can even see how they’d be frustrated or offended by our comments about the differences in academics between their school and ODU. It probably does sound like sour grapes. It’s not though. It’s just our attempt to empathize and support the JMU administration as it seeks out like minded institutions to align with.

    I loved the ODU rivalry and am sad to see it fading away. The schools are different academically though. Folks who say otherwise are just as delusional as folks who say JMU and W&M are on the exact same academic level. And the ODU fans who say that JMU isn’t well known nationally are correct. Maybe JMU’s administration thinks that sitting tight, waiting for the right opportunity, and maintaining an association with well regarded academic institutions such as W&M, UR, and Delaware, is one way to address that. Such associations could probably improve JMU’s national reputation more than ones with UTEP, ODU, etc. So while JMU football fans are incredibly frustrated right now, waiting for a better opportunity might be the right move in the long run.

  17. tedward / May 18 2012

    I agree with Rob. Let’s just wait it out. I do disagree with the public statement by JMU, where they act all high and mighty caring about all sports. I care about football and men’s basketball. I would bet that 98% feel the same way. I’d rather make a decision on those two sports, than try to find a “feel good” move to incorporate everyone.

  18. JMUMRD11 / May 18 2012

    Take this whichever way you want, but according to an insider, the athletic department including Bourne and Rose were in meetings all day with each other and MAC officials discussing a possible move to MAC. Other details in the rumor include a jump to MAC with Appy and UD to create the MAC East I suppose. With JMU’s statement yesterday, which made me sick at first, I see maybe they are just hiding what they are all really doing, which is what we hope. The source said that it is almost guaranteed we will sign with MAC and its possible the move will be announced tomorrow. I just hope we can at least have one more shot at a NC next year.

    I certainly think the MAC would be better and not a step down academically or a step down in the rivalries we could create (especially with UMASS, APP ST, and UD possible going) then CUSA playing schools down south, plus I think people overestimate the travel time that would be associated with the MAC. I would love playing App St. and Toledo, Akron, etc. (as some of you may know we are playing Akron in 2013 already scheduled) plus even though we might be competing for MAC champion and trying to get a spot in the Kraft Mac and Cheese bowl or whatever it would be, it would mean national exposure, mo’ money, better recruits, and so many other things that the CAA and FCS can’t do for us anymore. The MAC ain’t the SEC I know, but neither is the C-USA, plus ODU and JMU could still schedule each other and still have an OOC rivalry.

  19. Rob / May 18 2012

    While that sort of arrangement with an improved MAC (regardless of how likely it may or may not be) would be nice, it would be bush-league for JMU to jump to it this year after Bourne’s statement yesterday. JMU has to look out for #1, but if they’re still considering moving in the immediate future, they can’t issue statements like yesterday’s. Integrity is important.

  20. Matt / May 18 2012

    Being a vt fan and grad I get tired of the academic argument when talking about sports. First – its the last thing in thinking about when watching the actual games and second – bc it always comes up when something isn’t going well athletically for the person bringing it up. Should we get into which majors are ranked better at each of our schools?

    Very valid point though on what conference USA will even be in 2015. The top fbs conferences will continue to expand and change at the expense of the conference USA’s

  21. JMUMRD11 / May 18 2012

    Rob-I believe it would be quite messed up for JMU to do that, but with this administration, god only knows what will happen. I also meant to include that the announcement would come monday not tomorrow. I also took what this gentleman told me with a grain of salt. Maybe im not the only person he told to try and get something started that isn’t true, I dont know..
    Matt-i agree, I keep reading from message boards odu and jmu fans dissing the mac one reason is that the academics of those schools is not on the same level as jmu. Even the statement our athletic dept posted about in regards to academics is bs. I was merely saying that it would not be a step down in academics like I keep reading.

  22. Rob / May 19 2012

    Matt, I completely agree about fans turning to the academic excuse when discussing wins and losses. If an administration doesn’t consider it during conference re-alignment discussions though, they’re doing their school a disservice IMHO. VT is a great example of a school who has done a lot of things right with athletics and really used sports to elevate all aspects of the university. VT makes money (a rarity in college sports), has improved its name recognition, aligned itself with similar outstanding academic institutions in the ACC, and been competitive on the field/court.

    The reality is that JMU probably will continue to lose money on sports, so the administration needs to consider all aspects of a move, and not just jump for FBS football. JMU fans making fun of ODU’s academics are wasting their time. ODU’s profile has nothing to do with JMU’s decision. My only point was that the schools are different (academically and otherwise), so JMU fans shouldn’t be so quick to jump down the AD’s throat for taking his time and considering all his options, even if ODU made the leap first.

  23. DukeFan91 / May 19 2012

    As some one who has been a Notre Dame fan all my life, I can tell you that the academics argument (when rationalizing and justifying losses on the field) gets old very, very quickly. ND has been using that one since the early 90s now. IT’s BS excuse-making for them, and it’s the same for us.

    Outside of the Ivy League, I think too much is made about academic affiliations in what are at their root athletic conferences. Who the hell cares, really? If colleges are the house, then college athletics (college football especially) are the front porch – it’s the first thing people notice. Name recognition is huge. We don’t have it at the moment.

    While I am certainly no fan of the MAC (get ready to arrange those work calendars to accomodate the Wednesday night games), I really think I’d rather be in the MAC with App St and Delaware than in C-USA with ODU.

    Problem is, I have no faith at all that anything other than the status quo will happen. We’re fiddling while Rome burns.

  24. Dennis Tracz / May 19 2012

    No one seems to be mentioning the potential revenues from a tv contract for JMU joining FBS football. JMU has 56,000 alums in Metro DC which is an incredible tv market. Old Domion and East Carolina are natural rivals with large alumni bases in major metro areas. App State, Villanova, Marshall are some other attractive schools for a new league.

  25. Rob / May 19 2012

    Metro DC is a big TV market and 56,000 people would get you about 2% penetration of it. The DC media covers the Cavs, Terps, and Hokies like big time “local” teams. Navy is just behind them. And that’s just for football. With hoops you can also throw G-Town, GWU, Mason, etc in the mix. JMU could eventually squeeze its way in, but it would take folks with no ties to the school becoming fans. It could happen over time, but right now I don’t think there is enough interest to really justify claiming the DC metro as JMU’s market. If JMU somehow sells 20,000-30,000 tickets to the game at FedEX (I don’t think they will) it could prove me wrong and make a real statement though.

  26. 2004 Duke / May 21 2012

    “To watch a school we wouldn’t wipe our feet with academically that just started football three years ago pass us by and leave us holding our shiny new stadium (and our dicks) just makes you feel like some big meathead kid stole your middle-school girlfriend.”

    That was a beautiful piece of literary genius.

    I’m telling you…..if you cannot imagine hating ODU more that you already do, just listen to sports radio in the Hampton Roads area for 5 minutes. They have already accepted their invitation to the Orange Bowl as an at-large.

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