Friday, May 18, 2012

All Hell's Breaking Loose



Ten years from now, when the storytellers recall the greed, fear, and ambition that spelled doom for the CAA, we'll know whether Wood Selig was right to press ODU to accelerate its gridiron plans. Whether VCU President Michael Rao was wise to forego a $5 million bird-in-hand in hopes of taking flight.

Today, though, we sift through the wreckage of a league that seemed on the verge of, if not greatness, then sustained upper middle class excellence. Just one year removed from its first three-bid NCAA Tournament and only six beyond the most unlikely Final Four in history, the CAA is no more.

Sure, it'll live on in name for at least a few more years. Maybe Commissioner Tom Yeager will pull another rabbit from his hat, and cushion the loss of ODU and VCU with a College of Charleston here and a Stony Brook there. But George Mason is as good as gone. Delaware and JMU are wondering how an upstart football program like ODU leapfrogged them into the big-time (complete with even bigger-time financial challenges - the way too underplayed story within the story), and likely inclined to take the call when the MAC is on the other end of the line. Even lowly Towson, now helmed by a hard-charging brand builder like Mike Waddell, must hear Destiny's sexy whispers. It's a matter of time, my friends.

Not that long ago, I'd have raged wildly at the almighty dollar's unfeeling rampage through the natural order of college athletics. Today, though, that naive wistfulness is replaced by resignation to the way things really work. Let's be clear - I think ODU is making a massive mistake. I think Georgia State is probably making a lesser error, though I really don't care that much. And as much as it pains me to say, I think that VCU made the right call, given the circumstances: they'll never be as marketable as they are right now, and they aren't encumbered by football dreams. Even if Shaka Smart leaves in two years (and I'm with those who think he's the exception that proves the rule, destined to stay in Richmond for some time), the Rams have parlayed a once-in-generation hire into a nicer house with better neighbors, on the whole.

Now that the dust is settling a bit, William and Mary's passivity will be examined more critically. One interpretation of my alma mater's positioning says that W&M is secretly happy to see the CAA implode, as it offers the Tribe an easy way path to a more academically aligned partnership with the Patriot League, and a way to credibly reduce athletic funding while still maintaining competitive programs. The proverbial other hand believes that Terry Driscoll had both no juice and no plan, and that W&M is left foundering in a league that will be an unholy mishmash of misaligned institutions, at best.

The other hand is a more plausible story, in my mind, but I think there's a real possibility that W&M climbs out of this pile of shit smelling like roses. I'd be happier at this point with the Tribe as members of the Patriot League, whether or not they planned it, and the CAA's demise gives W&M cover with alums who might otherwise be upset - most of us would damn sure rather associate with Army, Navy, and Lehigh than with Coastal Carolina and Stony Brook. If the Patriot League comes calling (and, hi, Patriot League! Please come calling!), I think W&M accepts the charges gladly.

Left unexamined in all this is the relative importance of football versus basketball. I care way more about hoops than pigskin, and W&M's got more economic interest in successful basketball, but I'd bet that most Tribe alums, especially those who give real money, are far more worried about the future of Jimmye Laycock's program. I probably underestimate this factor in this analysis, and if W&M stays with FrankenCAA it'll be because it makes sense for the football team.

In any case, we'll head to Richmond in March (on a Saturday, as there will be no need for Friday games with only 7 teams in the CAA Tournament - thanks for ruining my hooky-playing tradition, Wood) and cheer on a Tribe team that's guaranteed to only need one win to reach the semifinals. We'll hang out with MGL, Defiantly Dutch, an irrationally engaged Northeastern fan, a passionate Drexel booster, Eric Angevine (who'd better still come, even if ODU won't be there) and the rest of our patchwork quilt of futile superfans. We'll have it better, but maybe only this last time.

Bummer.

36 comments:

T.J. said...

Next year's CAA Hoops Saturday is going to be an epic affair. It's already marked on my calendar.

zman said...

I don't want to oversell, but I now have two preposterous G&W stories for OBFT. What's the date on that again?

Jerry said...

Like I said yesterday, I think this is great. First though, I don't give a damn about the CAA. To me it's just the conference that the Tribe happens to play in. It's not like it's steeped in tradition.

In basketball (which I don't care about that much), the #1 dream is to make the NCAA tournament. That dream becomes far more achievable with ODU and VCU gone. It was never a level playing field with those programs anyway and it would've taken miraculous coaching and program building to get anywhere near them. That's two teams who are complete athletic mismatches out of the way. Yeah, we lose some dough, but what's that money doing for Tribe hoops anyway?

Football (which I care about a lot) still has too many moving parts to make a real assessment. I'm happy to be gone with ODU and GSU though. The CAA was tough enough without having to deal with those kind of institutions. I'd generally prefer to see some kind of CAA football remain intact, hopefully by adding a couple of legitimate schools rather than community colleges.

Patriot League is an acceptable fallback though. We'd be competing against peers and we'd have a real good chance to make the post-season with regularity. I think it would slightly reduce our chances of being truly elite though because we wouldn't be going through the wars in the regular season. But there have been a few Patriot League teams that had success in the post-season.

RMA said...

As much as I love my alma mater, JMU, being associated with W&M, the school has more in common with Lehigh, Lafayette, Holy Cross, etc than with Madison. The possibility of a Patriot League move might mean that W&M is in a better position than any other remaining CAA program.

MEB said...

Who are you to call someone irrationally engaged?

At least I've seen my Alma Mater Dance and win some games in the Big Dance.

Granted Rick Springfield was popular then....

Amit said...

As an alum of both JMU and W&M, the implosion of the CAA saddens me, for the Dukes, we are left in a proverbial no mans land of between the MAC which nobody wants and a castrated CAA. for the Tribe, the Patriot League has always been the proper fit.

Can't we just bring East Carolina, American and Navy back and have the CAA of the early 90's back together?

sandlapperspike said...

If Appalachian State and/or Georgia Southern go the FBS route and leave the SoCon, would a return to that league have any appeal to William & Mary?

The football-playing schools in the league would be Furman, Wofford, The Citadel, Samford, Elon, Western Carolina, and Chattanooga. UNCG, Davidson, and the College of Charleston would be non-footballing members (assuming none left for a reconstituted CAA).

It would not surprise me if VMI would be a candidate to return to the SoCon in this scenario as well.

zman said...

Seems like most of the Patriot League schools are a long schlep from the Burg.

rob said...

those are all nice schools - nothing against them - but w&m fancies itself among the nation's elite universities, and its academic reputation supports that belief. i don't think the administration would see a return to the socon as progress.

and i owe patrick stevens (@d1scourse) a cap tip for the 'greed, fear, and ambition' construct.

rob said...

some are, zman, but american and navy are close, and colgate, west point, and worcester aren't that much more of a trek than boston or long island.

Mark said...

Who are all these people commenting on this post? Personally, I think W&M should just sack up and join the SEC.

Igor said...

Selig family rule: first names are all things you burn.

rob said...

zippo really got the raw end of that deal

Igor said...

Oh, Rubber Selig would like to disagree.

rob said...

you don't get that kind of comedy anywhere else on the interwebs, people.

TR said...

If W&M goes to the Patriot League, the men's soccer will retreat into an abyss from which it will never recover.

T.J. said...

KNIBB HIGH FOOTBALL RULEZ

Mark said...

TJ- My wife isn't really pregnant. Just thought you should know before you go buying gifts.

T.J. said...

Yes, I kinda figured that. But thanks for the heads up.

Though, you would've really liked the cocaine bear oil painting I had purchased for you.

Mark said...

Well, you've already purchased it.

rob said...

jon papelbon just saved a game against the red sox. my brain is confused.

zman said...

This C's game is nip and tuck right now.

zman said...

Didn't you write in this space that papelbon should be traded?

rob said...

it's possible. i'm quite old and forgetful. doesn't mean i don't still love the guy, though.

zman said...

How did the C's blow this game? I'm so confused. Moreso than usual.

Igor said...

Dan Rather is 81? Wow.

Rob, whom do you have more fondness for, Papelbon or Keith Foulke?

rob said...

papelbon - far more personality than foulke

Igor said...

I figured there would always be a stronger affinity for "one of the 25."

rob said...

no question i have an affinity for foulke, but pap was one of my favorites while he was in boston.

zman said...

Papelbon is no Daniel bard.

zman said...

rob, check out the comments to this post (and the girls in bikinis too):

http://gheorghe77.blogspot.com/2010/05/more-definitive-world-cup-analysis_18.html

rob said...

the ones where i say i love papelbon and still say they should trade him while he has value, or the ones where dave cops to literary sexplay with other men?

zman said...

Yes.

rob said...

i'll have another...race winner and what i just told this bartender

Mark said...

I really enjoy the fact that Rob ditched his kid at her dance recital to drink at the bar today. I'm not being sarcastic either. I'm happy for the guy. He spends WAY too much time at dance recital.

Igor said...

Hey Gheorghies!!