The CAA conference needed a few good schools. After a burst of success, the league lost VCU, George Mason, Georgia State and Old Dominion, with the latter two bringing some pain to the football side of the conference, which also recently lost UMass, who left their football-only membership for a similar arrangement with the FBS MAC.
Thus far, the conference has added just the College of Charleston (from the Southern Conference) as a full member, but that appears set to change tomorrow. At 2:00 pm, Elon University is prepared to announce that it will shift it's athletic programs from the SoCon to the CAA in all sports.
For football, the addition brings the league back to 12 members, with Albany and Stony Brook joining in Fall 2013. The Phoenix football program is likely to wait until Fall 2014 to begin CAA conference play, due to scheduling and financial issues that remain to be resolved. There may be a slight chance that the school could join sooner.
The move shifts the CAA southward again, with their Alamance County, NC location forming the southernmost football outpost of the league. If the conference opts to split into geographically-based divisional play with 12 teams, would likely place Villanova and Delaware in separate sides of the division split.
Located in Elon, North Carolina, the school is a private liberal arts university with a focus on strong academics. The Phoenix joined Division I in 1999 and they were known as the "Fighting Christians" (chosen because of an affiliation with the United Christian Church and because of proximity to the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest) until 2000. The name change was related to the school's transition to Division I sports and an attempt to build a stronger brand at that level.
The current mascot references a 1923 fire that burned down a large portion of the campus, forcing the university to "rise from the ashes," like a Phoenix.
The football program in particular had great successes at the lower levels of competition. Winning NAIA National Titles in 1980 and 1981 before the school transitioned to membership in NCAA Division II. Since moving to the Division I-AA Southern Conference, Elon has had success on the football field as well. Though overshadowed by the successes of Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, the Phoenix has made a number of playoffs appearances and appeared in national polls since upgrading their athletic programs.
They play in the 13,100-seat Rhodes Stadium, which was opened on-campus in September 2001 at a cost of $13 million.