Some shake-out appears to be on the horizon.
You get the vibe the best solution is either:
One FB league (administered by the CAA), with northern and southern FB divisions
Two FB leagues (south would be the CAA, north would be ???? schools seem to act like the AE would screw things up if it were to administer a new northern conference)
There is a collection of FCS teams coming and going, and they appear to NOT be talking together, or waiting for some visionary with a plan.
Freak's article failed to mention that Fordham, Stony Brook, Albany, Duquesne, and UNC-Charlotte could all be approached as part of a comprehensive solution.
Not sure if the main problems the "Northern 4" are experiencing are more travel or scholarship / other cost-related.
NEC limits scholarships to something more like 40-45, rather than the FCS limit of 63. I think they would have to split off and form a separate league in order to impose different rules from the rest of the CAA, if that is what it will take from them to stay viable.
Right now the CAA FB looks like:
New Hampshire (north)
Rhode Island (north)
Villanova (could go either way, needs to remain with Delaware)
Delaware (could go either way, needs to remain with Villanove)
James Madison (south)
Old Dominion (south, coming in 2010 ?)
William & Mary (south)
Georgia State (south, coming in 2012)
Delaware and Villanova could be in a Northern Division of CAA FB, but they sure are NOT likely to part company with the CAA.
UNCC plans to go ahead and would like be part of CAA FB sometime after start-up in 2013.
Conclusion - if the Northern 4 broke away from the CAA, the CAA still appears to have a viable 9-team FB league going forward.
So right about now, the Northern 4 should be approaching the following schools to see what they want to do long-term....
Fordham (appears to be leaving the Patriot, but is moving from 58 scholarship-equivalents to 63 scholarships).
Stony Brook (I think they are at 63 scholarships, would seem to want to switch from the Big South to a northern conference at the drop of a hat, however they ae committed to the Big South through 2010 (?) until Presyterian is an offical member of the Big South.
Albany (plays football in the 40-45 scholarship NEC)
Duquesne (plays football in the 40-45 scholarship NEC)
Youngstown State (has some serious travel in the MVFC, as the eastern out-lier)
Temple (did well in the FBS MAC this year, positioning themselves to be attractive to the Big East, does FCS football make more sense for them ?)
CAA FB is a power-house conference in FCS. The financial demands are high, and without a big-time TV contract, FCS football is NOT a "revenue sport". So these schools must seriously resolve their long-term financial plans and align with like-minded institutions.
This is an opportunity for the American East Conference management to take a leadership position and try to pull this together. I do not see why forming a Yankee Conference or whatever as "a step backward". Evidently there was something disagreeable about the way the conference (Yankee or A10) was managed, which needs to be avoided.
Maybe the Northern 4 intend to approach the CAA first (as a courtesy, and not to overtly go behind their back) and state what situation serves them best, to give the CAA a shot at acommodating them. That could result in a CAA FB expansion, that pulls in enough northern teams to have CAA divsions and solve their travel issues.
If not, they initiate discussion about a separate northern league.