Feb 27 / Todd

Conference Realignment Reset

As many of you know, we are just one of the many little corners of JMU fandom that has beating the dead conference realignment horse over and over for years now. Since we started this project in ’09, no other issue (not even losing a bid to Eastern Kentucky, the run/pass ratio, or even the closing of Dave’s or a soccer star marrying a guy from N’Sync) has even come close to causing us more disagreements, more conversations, more questions, more stress, and more general frustration than conference realignment.  All the angles have been covered at one time or another so we won’t dive that deeply on any specific aspect again now.  But for two reasons, we wanted to recap a few things and help prep the landscape for the next couple of months.  Warning, this is long and there’s nothing really new here for those already following this matter intently. In short, it’s time to focus on hoops, but we’re hopeful/wishful that it’s time for things, or at least the soon-to-be-shattered dreams of Dukes fans, to be cranked up again.

First, we don’t want to talk about this the next couple of weeks with conference tournaments coming up for men’s and women’s hoops. The women are now ranked #1 in the national mid-major poll, and today’s shock-loss notwithstanding, have become one of the best JMU teams in any sport in a long time (seriously, what kind of bullshit publicity stunt is a weekday game at 11:30 a.m.?!).  They have a chance to be special in the postseason. And if last year’s watered-down, but wide-open CAA men’s tourney taught us anything, it’s not to count our boys out just yet.  Are there less favorable potential matchups on the men’s side? Sure.  But is there really a team in the CAA that scares you with a combination of talent AND experience winning a title? Nope. In any case, the next two weeks are about basketball and with big games all the time, we’re not going to be reopening the conference box for every rumor.  But…our second reason for recapping now is that it sure seems like the next month is going to be a goldmine of rumors, hints, and hopefully, an actual result that at long last doesn’t involve the letters C-A-A, at least not in that order. And yes, we’re aware that if JMU history tells us anything, it’s that we’re probably crying wolf at this point by even bringing it up again and we should all just try to convince ourselves that matchups in perpetuity with the Elon Fightin’ Christians are worth everything we all invest already and just shut up and like it.

But that said, here’s the rundown in bullet form:

– The CAA is a vindictive, spiteful league led by a pissed off little Tom Yeager and so any team that announces it’s leaving is immediately ineligible in all sports for conference championships and tournaments, and thus autobids to NCAA tournaments, for the rest of the time they are in that conference. JMU voted in favor of this rule and to a small extent benefitted from it last year so no whining about it now. But this is also the reason that when the January Board of Visitors meeting came and went with no announcement of a conference move, most of us haven’t expected anything till after the CAA hoops tourneys.  Why not wait a month if that’s all that stands between you and an NCAA berth.  At this point, Kenny Brooks’ team has a decent shot at an at-large berth, which the CAA does not control, but it’s no guarantee if they don’t participate in, and win, the CAA tourney. The men have to defend their title on the court in Baltimore this year. If you recall, George Mason announced it was leaving immediately following the end of hoops season last year and similar timing seems likely. Technically, a move MUST be made by June 1st to start the transition clock mandated by the NCAA in the 14-15 year, but with the season ticket deadline for football coming up on May 15th, if an announcement is to EVER be made, the six weeks between the end of the CAA tourney and that date seem most likely.

– Realistically, the field of potential destinations for JMU has been whittled down to two (more on that below), Conference USA (CUSA) and the Mid-American Conference (MAC). JMU has shown little interest in its one known suitor, the Sun Belt. And the AAC or anything else still seems out of reach, assuming of course you think that’s a step up from CUSA or the MAC in the first place.

– There are a ton of reasons including some new ones out there on the rumor mill (including that the MAC has just dropped an affiliate member for soccer thus reducing it’s membership in that sport to the NCAA minimum which seems to indicate they expect a new squad soon). And the clear focus on academic alignment highlighted by the Carr Report only reinforces our long-held thoughts that Alger and co. think more highly, and rightly so, of the MAC than CUSA on that front.  Really, our thoughts from last year that the MAC is the best and most likely destination have only been bolstered in recent times. Depending on perspective and how much you choose to let ODuh supporters influence your beliefs, the MAC may be the only logical option left as CUSA may not be interested in expansion, or at least not with JMU. We’ve always thought JMU to the MAC was the admin’s top choice  thanks to an actual academic pedigree, some reasonable level of stability, and the ESPN deal regardless and sometimes there’s a chicken and egg thing going on with who does or doesn’t want who here.

– For the millionth time, the CAA is not even crap, it’s worse than that. Simply put, JMU’s CURRENT spending levels are utterly preposturous for FCS and the CAA.  If you want to argue that JMU should downshift it’s focus on athletics, that’s a valid position, but to argue that switching conferences at this point is somehow the point at which the dam breaks the other way just shows you don’t understand the issues. FCS is dead. While the G5 (the non-BCS conferences currently in FBS) will never be the same as the power conferences, that group has expanded rapidly and is set to settle for a while. If JMU misses out now, then you have to be alright with third-tier athletics as the FCS conferences are being shuffled backwards in the pecking order from their former (no longer current) second-tier status while the G5 takes that spot.  Besides, a CAA w/out GMU, VCU, and ODU is no CAA.  And a CAA with Charleston, Maine, Albany, and Northeastern is no cheap, easy travel conference when compared with a MAC East comprised of Ohio schools and maybe Delaware someday so stop with that bullshit.

– Two last things for sure: We’ll be watching with great interest today when the MAC’s newly renegotiated television deal with ESPN is possibly announced (renegotiated a couple years early we might add) and we’ll definitely be debuting some MAC/Yeager themed signs in Baltimore next week!  We’d love to have company on this front!

We endorse the MACtion!

We endorse the MACtion!

 


16 Comments

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  1. Brett / Feb 28 2014

    I would love a move to the MAC & an opportunity to paint Detroit purple….

  2. Tidewater Duke / Feb 28 2014

    I am all for the MAC. Already people down here in Tidewater are wondering how UTEP, Tulsa, Southern Miss etc. are going to become hot rivalries with ODU, plus their travel budget is going to be astronomical for all of their sports. If you look at the schools in the MAC and their facilities it more resembles JMU. I am looking forward to it.

  3. Ken / Feb 28 2014

    believe it will be a good move, though bridgeforth would rank 10th in stadium capacity in a 14-team conference (exceeding only ball state, bowling green state, ohio and miami of ohio); if jmu ever revives the original stadium expansion dream and replaces the east side, it would be the largest in the mac (technically 2nd behind umass because they play in the mostly empty brady/belichick stadium).

    i like it because i can make it to 8 of the 13 stadiums and back in the same day — a long day in some cases, but a day nonetheless. besides, except for ohio (3), western michigan (2) and central michigan (2.5 and CMU truly is in the middle of nowhere), every mac school is w/in a 1.5-hour drive of a major airport, be it o’hare, indianapolis, boston, cleveland, cincinnati or detroit.

    one benefit to the akron / kent state trips is you can make it a complete football weekend by visiting the hall of fame in nearby canton.

    give me some maction, baby!

  4. Mike in Ohio / Feb 28 2014

    I have always been torn on this issue as I just don’t think JMU is positioned to move up to Division 1 football but you make a good point that conferences such as the MAC are really becoming what the FCS was for awhile in relation to bigger programs. You also make a good point about geography. I always thought MAC schools were too far away but a trip to Maine or stony Brook is probably no closer. I also find the current CAA has little interest for me in football or basketball. I was at the Stony Brook game this year and even though we lost to them, I have little interest in seeing that match up again or any game against Albany or Elon. Of the 2 leagues, MAC and CUSA, I think the MAC is a better choice. Good post as always. If I make it to the basketball tourney, as planned, I will look for the JMU Sports Blog sign.

  5. Rob / Feb 28 2014

    While I agree with my blog partner here that a move might be a good thing for JMU, I differ with regards to his opinion on the CAA. I don’t think it’s crap. In fact in hoops it currently sits at 15th in the RPI. Not great, but that’s exactly where it ended up in 2012-2013, its final year with VCU, ODU, and GMU. The MAC is currently 12th, but it’s average RPI going back to 2007 is about 15th (15.75 to be exact). So in terms of hoops performance and opportunity, it’s probably a wash. Trading a 1 bid mid-major league for a 1 bid mid-major league.

    If the point being made is that JMU should align itself with schools that have similar athletic visions, and a willingness to dedicate the same level of resources to sports that it is, then I agree. I just think that would be a better way to state it than to say that the CAA is worse than crap.

  6. robin / Feb 28 2014

    is there a difference in MAC east and MAC? My son plays a D1 sport that many MAC east schools do not participate in so it has me concerned.,

  7. Rob / Feb 28 2014

    MAC East is just a division of the MAC. JMU sponsors the minimum number of sports required for D-I, so I wouldn’t worry about too much. The school can’t cut any teams or else it wouldn’t be able to remain a D-I program. One or two teams just might end up playing in a conference other than the MAC if a move to that league happened.

  8. Tim / Mar 5 2014

    I am all in for joining the MAC…..its time.

  9. Robin / Mar 5 2014

    I agree with all of you. I have read the Carr report and it says we have all the teams needed to stay compliant with title 1x and NCAA rules. We have minimum of 6 mens sports which my son plays on one of them. Concerned as other schools like university if Maryland dropped sports when they made a change. Hoping that since we are at minimum nothing happens. Someone mentioned early they can play in different conference. Personally I would build the convocation center as suggestion and wait for an offer from a school where it would be fun to travel.
    One question, at this late time can they move next year just not be able to compete in bowl games or do you think they would pay hefty buyout to move or plan for 2015-2016 year to avoid that payout!

  10. robin / Mar 5 2014

    rob…

    I am referring to your answer regarding dropping sports. I have read the carr report and I know that they are at minimum male sports and all to remain D1 but just wondering when if they announce a move before June 1
    will they be in new conference next year. I hope you are right about not abandoning a sport.

  11. Todd / Mar 5 2014

    Thanks Robin for the thoughtful questions and comments. Honestly – we really don’t know any more than anyone else on the logistics of the move. Best we have to go on is George Mason’s move last year (which of course didn’t include football). They went ahead and moved everything immediately to the A-10, as did VCU the year before, beginning July 1. On the other hand, ODU hung around the CAA for an entire athletic year in full lame-duck status (unable to compete for championships under CAA rules) before moving to CUSA this year. It really appears to be up to the destination conference. A-10 was willing to rearrange schedules and pull the trigger right away where CUSA wasn’t, most likely because they were waiting on their own members that were leaving (e.g. ECU) to clear a spot for the newcomers. And timing is everything. GMU announced in late March, giving the A-10 plenty of time to make the changes for fall sports, while the ODU announcement didn’t come until May, putting CUSA in a much tougher spot, one in which they weren’t willing to make huge scheduling changes.

    One thing that could prove important to keep in mind is that CAA Football is a separate entity from the rest of the CAA. The ideal situation (given that staying in the CAA leaves non-football sports in a lame-duck status) would be playing the CAA schedule as planned in football while moving the other sports immediately. This would make football eligible for an at-large playoff spot even though not a CAA title (assuming they stick to FCS/1-AA scholarship restrictions), while making all the other sports immediately eligible for titles and NCAA automatic bids in their new home.

    But this is all speculative on our part and it doesn’t seem clear that JMU would have much say in these matters. Timing is everything. I am incredibly hopeful that something will happen, but who knows.

  12. Robin / Mar 5 2014

    Thanks robb

  13. 2004 Duke / Mar 6 2014

    I think the MAC sucks and is a horrible idea.

    There, I said it.

  14. Robin / Mar 6 2014

    I heard they may spend the money to increase convocation first so more attractive to different conferences as going to Mac we have one of smaller stadiums. Move when it’s a good move is all I am saying! Would much rather play ODU or school names I recognize them Akron or buffalo. But academically it is a good fit! Who knows… I guess we wait!

  15. Shadow / Mar 6 2014

    C-USA or bust!!!

    No MAC & Cheese please!

  16. Brett / Mar 6 2014

    Great comments, Todd. To the others, I used to be in the CUSA camp but now that it’s just a picked over corpse with all the good teams having flown the coop I have definitely changed my mind. Were you aware of the big names like Stony Brook, HOFSTRA, Albany, Elon, etc before they were in the CAA? Don’t write off the schools b/c you’re unfamiliar. They are extremely competitive in athletics and academically light years ahead of CUSA. Most people want CUSA because of the name recognition, this isn’t the same conference it was 5 years ago. And screw Old Dominion, of we didn’t play them ever again I’d be fine with it. We shouldn’t be making athletic/business decisions based on what those fools do.

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