George Mason is staying in the CAA. Every other school that was reportedly considering an offer to exit seems to be taking the exit option. Old Dominion is the latest among them — accepting an invitation to join Conference USA and to upgrade their three-year-old football program to the Bowl Subdivision. They will join Charlotte as schools with non-FBS football that will be upgrading to join the rebuilding CUSA, who will now have 14 members.
An announcement is scheduled for 2:30 pm today and they will complete one final season in the CAA before joining CUSA.
CAA football will have just eight members in the 2013 season now. The league, which has been creeping further and further south in the pigskin sport has had as many as 12 football members in the past. Only four of the eight remaining football members are also members of the CAA in other sports — which isn't a huge problem since, legally, the football conference is a separate entity than the basketball league.
It is a little bit of a problem though.
All current CAA all-sports members have the opportunity to add football to the conference if they make the commitment in the next few years. Of the remaining members on the basketball side, only George Mason, Drexel and UNC-Wilmington are not participating currently in CAA football and have not previously participated (Hofstra and Northeastern could theoretically return to the league, but both dropped the sport recently).
Beyond those internal candidates, the league cannot add any outside candidates to the football conference without the approving vote of 75% of the football members in "good standing. That means that at-least two of the football-only members of the conference would have to approve of any addition to their ranks. That could complicate things for the conference, which might want to add some schools with football programs that are not acceptable to the football conference membership. Conversely, the football conference may want to offer an invitation to some FCS football schools that don't play basketball at a high enough level for the rest of the conference.
Unlike the Big East, where the survival of football is crucial for the conference's revenue going forward, the CAA does not generate significant revenue from it's FCS league — and won't likely in the future. Instead, the conference's revenue currently does and likely will continue to come from basketball success.
For the football-only schools, who have a full vote on all football conference issues and membership, the well-being of CAA basketball is irrelevant, however. The football league has its own problems that must be solved independent of the rest of the CAA.
Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports suggests Davidson and College of Charleston as CAA additions, but neither would be much help to the football league. Charleston doesn't field a football team and while Davidson does, it is in the Pioneer League, whose schools make next-to-no financial commitment to their programs — and Davidson would be likely to keep their football team there if possible.
For the football schools, Stony Brook and Coastal Carolina seem like more reasonable options. Liberty University and Appalachian State would have also been great additions for the football league, but both have recently committed to moving to FBS if an invitation can be obtained and cannot offer the level of commitment that the CAA needs to stabilize.
The division of the CAA into a football conference and an all-sports conference with full membership and voting on the football side for football-only members is a complication that holds-over from the days of the Yankee Conference's merger with the Atlantic 10. Only two of the Atlantic 10 football members were also members of the A-10 in other sports, however, and five of them were in the CAA — until Northeastern joined the CAA in a move that would allow the CAA to sponsor a football conference. They didn't start a new conference though, they just adopted the Atlantic-10's conference.
Different legal entities. Different bylaws. Same commissioner and support staff.
Make no mistake then, that the CAA's football conference is not necessarily going to be on the same page as the rest of the CAA on expansion issues. Maine and UNH would probably like some new northern football playmates. Villanova and Delaware would like to add some stronger FCS programs to keep the league's reputation up there. Richmond won't care if their primary conference (A-10) picks off all of the quality hoops programs from the CAA, as long as their alumni are happy with the football product.
The football conference is in a precarious position, however. The only thing keeping James Madison from following ODU to I-A football is that they don't yet have an invitation. Delaware has reportedly been very happy as an FCS program, but if the CAA can't rebuild, they will have to make and "up or down" decision to join a lesser league like the Patriot, or to make a commitment to seek a move to FBS.
According to The News Journal's Kevin Tresolini, an FBS move has gained some traction among Delaware's Trustees. There may even be a good chance that Delaware could be the Philadelphia-area replacement for Temple University in the MAC.
It seems that every remaining CAA football school is considering their options.
Villanova will also have to consider its options, especially if Delaware (a school that Villanova has played more times on the football field than any but Boston College) decides to make the jump. Administrators at Nova are currently content to wait and see where things go with the Big East. Can they work things out with the football membership to secure an invite? Will a new television deal and the proposed BCS playoff lead to more or less stability in the conference?
If Villanova has considered joining a different FBS conference, it hasn't been serious enough to warrant much study or consideration at this point. Sources have confirmed that the study done last year was specific to the Big East and that other conferences were not considered and had not been discussed by the Trustees.
The NCAA "landscape," however, remains a topic of discussion for administrators at Villanova — and at almost every school.