By Joe Pantorno, Sports Editor
Colonial Athletic Association Commissioner Tom Yeager might have been all smiles at Jeff Hathaway's introductory press conference at Hofstra University on Tuesday, but recent news gives him all the reasons in the world to be frowning.
With NCAA Division I athletics in a conference realignment extravaganza, the CAA has just received its first blow with the announcement that VCU, the gem of the conference, is leaving for the Atlantic-10 Conference for the 2012-2013 season.
"Over the past couple of weeks, VCU made up their mind to leave. Yeah [I was surprised]," said Yeager. "What you're hearing is correct."
VCU, who have dominated the CAA in men's basketball, is just one year removed from its Cinderella run into the Final Four in 2011. The Rams have enjoyed partaking in a CAA Tournament that has taken place in the Richmond Coliseum, a neutral ground just two miles away from its campus.
"The good and bad part of this business is that results will tell the tale," said Yeager.
VCU is not the only school leaving the conference. Last month, Georgia State accepted its invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference and rumors have been swirling that Old Dominion might be on its way out to join Conference-USA. George Mason, arguably the second biggest school behind VCU elected to stay in the CAA for now.
"This is sheer hysteria on some fronts. There are a lot of decisions being made and only time will tell which ones are good," said Yeager.
But wait, it gets worse for Yeager.
Academic Progress Rate sanctions are looming for two CAA schools, Towson and UNC-Wilmington and could be deemed academically ineligible next season. If these penalties are executed, this means that only eight teams will be competing for the basketball championships next season.
"Well, this means there will be no Friday games," said Yeager with a sarcastic grin. "It'll get back to the old days."
While Yeager will begin to look for schools to take the place of Georgia State and VCU, he stresses that there is no rush.
"I think we want to look for institutions that will first and foremost bring something to the table," said Yeager. "You just don't want to fill out and bring it back to 12 [teams]. You want to have somebody that brings a requisite amount of assets and contributions to the good of the group."
This is not anything new for Yeager, who experienced a conference realignment in 2001 that brought Hofstra, Drexel, Delaware and Towson to the CAA while American, East Carolina and Richmond left.
"In 2000 people were saying the grave was dug and people were shoveling dirt on us," said Yeager. "We then had a couple of final fours and national championships with other teams and other sports. When you start with good Universities with good leadership, good student athletes, I'll take that."
"I'll take that right now."