CAA vs. SoCon: another conference realignment update

In the week following my last post on the CAA’s ostensible attempt to “raid” the SoCon, there has been a meager amount of actual news, and a lot of rumor-mongering. A great example of how an internet rumor can get started came after a series of tweets by Burlington Times-News reporter Adam Smith. The tweet that ultimately initiated a cyber-roar:

Davidson, College of Charleston and App State – yes, App State – formally have been contacted by the #CAA.

Notice that he didn’t say the schools had been invited to join the CAA, or anything like that. He just said the three institutions “formally had been contacted”, which was simply Smith’s way of stating that CAA commissioner Tom Yeager had called his opposite number at the Southern Conference, John Iamarino, to let him know he was approaching those schools.

The fact Yeager was calling SoCon school officials wasn’t really that big a deal, as it had been reported a month ago. However, Smith’s scoop that Appalachian State had been one of the schools singled out by Yeager was quite newsworthy, and a bit of a surprise.

Smith’s tweet was apparently picked up by the folks who run, but that site put a different spin on the information, running with a report that the CAA had “made a formal invitation to Davidson, College of Charleston and Appalachian State—yes, ASU, to become league members.”

There is a major distinction between contact and an invitation, to say the least, but it was that part about the alleged invite that got things stirred up on various messageboards, not to mention Twitter. It took a while before people began to figure out that the schools in question had not yet been formally invited to switch leagues.

Smith followed up with an article in which he noted that Furman had not been in contact with the CAA (“per multiple sources”) and that the administration at Elon wasn’t saying anything. The news about Furman seemed to dampen various reports/rumors of the Paladins being part of a larger migration of SoCon schools to the CAA.

The story also pointed out why many observers (including me) are skeptical of Appalachian State jumping to the CAA:

Appalachian State, if it were to join the CAA, would be expected to abandon its well-known pursuit of climbing from the Football Championship Subdivision to the top tier Football Bowl Subdivision, because the CAA competes on the FCS level.

Such a concession from Appalachian State appears highly unlikely, given the investment the Mountaineers have made in growing football, already their flagship sports program.

There would be some angry Mountaineer fans if the Appy administration punted on its very public FBS ambitions to make an arguably lateral move to another FCS conference. Such a jump would cost the school $600,000, as that is the exit fee required for leaving the SoCon. In addition, Appalachian State would have to pay a $1 million exit fee to the CAA if it were to abandon that league after joining.

Shortly after the Burlington Times-News story was released, the Watauga Democrat posted a quote from Appalachian State spokesman Mike Flynn:

There are no new developments in Appalachian’s ongoing pursuit of a conference that sponsors FBS football.

So there (I guess).

One additional piece of information came the next day, when UNC-Wilmington chancellor Gary Miller had this to say about a timeframe for CAA expansion:

Christmas is a realistic goal. It’s a difficult question to answer, because the schools we want to talk to have time constraints, they’re in conferences already, they have exit strategies. We would like to see some things happen quickly – and definitely by next year.

Miller may be thinking about a holiday down the road, but SoCon commissioner Iamarino has his eye on a more immediate day of celebration, as he reportedly wants the institutions in his league to finalize their decisions by July 4.

I think Iamarino may get his wish. I’m not sure waiting is going to change anything as far as the Southern Conference schools are concerned.

One other piece of information was revealed on Tuesday that could be suggestive. The Atlantic Sun conference announced that Furman and Elon would be joining that league for women’s lacrosse. Both schools are starting lacrosse programs, and the league release stated the two would “debut their programs as affiliate members of the [Atlantic Sun] as early as 2014.”

Furman and Elon needed another league besides the SoCon to place their brand-new lacrosse programs because the Southern Conference does not sponsor the sport. However, the CAA does. It strikes me that if Furman and Elon were seriously considering a move to the CAA, they wouldn’t have been so quick to come to an arrangement with another conference for their lacrosse teams.

I believe there will probably be a resolution to the CAA/SoCon tug-o’-war in the next few weeks. I hope so, anyway. It’s almost time for football season.