Hofstra Return to America East / AE Football Rumblings
For years now, there have been rumblings from Hofstra fans about leaving the CAA. The rationale being that since joining the CAA in 2002, the athletic programs have suffered from being one of the only northern teams in a predominantly southern conference.
The ideal move would be to the Atlantic 10, but that is not an real option as the 14 team conference has little desire to expand. But over the past few years, the idea of a return to the America East hasn’t seemed as far a stretch as once thought.
A recent article in Newsday is planting the seed for even more people in the region.
While it’s doubtful such a move would ever happen, one has to wonder about Northeastern.
The Boston school was brought to the CAA, instead of rival Boston University who was then a power in the America East conference. Why? It was all part of the interesting “power” play by the CAA to take the sponsorship rights from the Atlantic 10. At the time, the A10 Football conference was comprised of America East members UNH, Maine and Northeastern, with Atlantic 10 members UMass, URI, and Richmond, Big East member Villanova, as well as CAA members JMU, Hofstra, Delaware, W&M; and Towson. In order for the CAA to take what they felt was a coveted sponsorship (and the playoff autobid), they needed 6 members. So despite Northeastern being a less successful athletic program, their sponsorship of football made them the candidate.
Fast forward 4 years and the CAA is clearly a southern conference. Georgia St. was added to appease UNCW who watched 3 northern schools added in 2002 and Northestern being considered as the next candidate (despite Goergia St. actually being farther away than W&M; and ODU are to them). Old Dominion and Georgia St. are set to start football programs and will participate in the CAA.
So the bloated football conference will now have 8 all sports CAA members, 3 A10 members and 2 America East members and Villanova of the Big East. Yes, that’s 14 teams.
It’s a safe assumption that had the CAA worked harder with Old Dominion and even then expansion candidate Georgia St. to finalize football plans, the Northeastern inviation card would have never had to be played. The CAA would have 7 all-sports members, 1 more than they would need to sponsor the sport and hold a NCAA Football Playoff autobid.
So looking to the future…what if Hofstra returned to the America East?
In 1997, when the Yankee Conference was to fold, the America East turned down the football sponsorship. The A10 then claimed it. The refusal by the America East to sponsor football was a trigger in the future defection by Delaware. In 1997, America East schools playing football included Delaware,UNH, Maine, Northeastern and the Boston University (Towson had yet to upgrade to the same level of scholorships).
But with schools cutting sports programs due to economic concerns, the idea of less travel might be appealing enough for a new football conference by the America East. UNH, Maine and Stony Brook all sponsor football. Albany has considered going through an upgrade. A return of Hofstra and Northeastern would be 6 schools, enough to sponsor the sport and gain an automatic bid. Such a move would likely trigger defections by nearby schools UMass and URI. Even potential upgrades like Central Connecticut St. are worth keeping on the radar.
CAA Football Split: A (2) Football Conference Scenario:
America East: Maine, UNH, Northeastern, Albany, Hofstra, Stony Brook, *UMass, *URI
CAA: Delaware, Towson, JMU, W&M;, ODU, Georgia St., *Richmond, *Villanova
The overall America East conference would look as such:
Albany, Binghamton, Hofstra, Stony Brook, Boston University, Northeastern, Hartford, Vermont, UNH, Maine and UMBC.
As it is now, the CAA football conference has agreed to remain at 14 once ODU and Georgia St. join, rather than split. But would Hofstra ever consider a return to the America East? Perhaps not. But the fans are thinking it. The media is thinking it. Perhaps one day the administration will think about it.