"One school exits! Another one enters!" Or something like that.
Terry Foy of Inside Lacrosse has all the details on America's toughest conference -- the Colonial Athletic Association, angrily labeled "THUNDERDOME!" due to the fact that Delaware once played an entire conference game against Towson with chainsaws instead of lacrosse sticks (that could be a lie) -- and the future combatant pool it will offer a bloodthirsty nation:
Fairfield will announce intentions to join the Colonial Athletic Association as an affiliate member in men's lacrosse for the 2015 season, sources have told Inside Lacrosse.
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The move may surprise fans who saw the MAAC, Fairfield's conference home in the majority of its sports, as a good fit for coach Andy Copelan's squad. However, the Stags left the MAAC after the 1999 season and has been a bit nomadic in its conference affiliation since. Despite the MAAC's strides in recent years, the league still doesn't have the CAA's NCAA Tournament success, one of the main criteria in evaluating a conference's strength.
A few brief thoughts on all of this:
- I'll probably run the numbers soon, but a THUNDERDOME! of Drexel, Towson, Hofstra, Massachusetts, Delaware, St. Joseph's, and Fairfield is a pretty solid league. Regardless of whether the Stags for Penn State is a zero-sum swap (there are decent arguments on all sides of that discussion), THUNDERDOME! still has a handful of nationally-relevant programs that can keep the league afloat and in the national consciousness (outside of the country staring at it and wondering when the league with authorize the use of nail guns in overtime periods to generate a higher level of excitement). With a seven-member roll, the league also covers its six in case a team decides to depart for other opportunities. It's a solid conference, and that's ultimately what Fairfield wanted and got. There's balance on both sides of the decision.
- The MAAC can't like this, but probably understands Fairfield's decision. The Stags could have served as a tent pole for a league that is establishing lacrosse as a core sport. That league would have had a different kind of feel with Fairfield in the fold and, arguably, had its volition changed a bit. Alas, the MAAC will keep put-put-put'n along without the Stags.
- It feels appropriate that it was THUNDERDOME! with its acquisition of Fairfield that essentially provided the deathblow to the ECAC. The ECAC was already bleeding out with the departures of Denver (2014, Big East), Loyola (2014, Patriot), Ohio State (2015, Big Ten), and Michigan (2015, Big Ten), but a core of Air Force, Bellarmine, Fairfield, and Hobart at least kept the league on life support. With Fairfield out of the mix, a three-team foundation probably isn't going to get it done. Unless the ECAC can poach from another conference (or conferences) or otherwise convince a yet-to-be-determined number of schools to join Division I play and affiliate with the league, the ECAC isn't going to have much of an ending (especially if Hobart and Bellarmine put a little giddy-up in their bar-hopping pursuit). This all comes on the heels of the ECAC signing a deal with Fox Sports to broadcast games. Thanks, football.
- You'd have to think that Fairfield went to the Big East to ask about affiliated or full membership in the conference and the answer was "Who are you again?" I'm not sure that changes down the line for Fairfield with respect to the Big East. As for Richmond. . . .
- "What if . . ." scenarios still exist all over the place, but the most direct consequences of this move are aimed at Air Force, Bellarmine, and Hobart. Air Force is still a ronin in conference realignment and I'm not sure if they'll find a new master any time soon. Bellarmine looks destined for the Atlantic Sun based on the school's location, but that isn't cast in stone. And Hobart is a different kind of animal that will likely find a home but it's not quite clear yet where the Statesmen will land. Those schools are running somewhat short on time to shape their future. They could always join Conference SB Nation, I guess.