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A Thoughtful Outlook
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Mrs. Got Ribe Offline
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Post: #1
A Thoughtful Outlook
This was emailed to me by a staunch supporter. He asked me to post it on the board for discussion. It is a strong piece of work that should compel our Athletic Department to think hard about our conference affiliation and make plans accordingly.

I think NJ Alum has asked similar questions about our future. We need to have a plan for where we want to be 2, 5, 10 years from now. And, IIRC, there are a number of people who are hard-pressed to articulate what we have in common with the remaining CAA schools.

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The ten year plan would benefit from adding a study of the College’s ideal conference affiliation.

From the outside looking in it appears that there have been two primary arbiters for W&M athletics in the last 40 years – institutional leadership at the College and the CAA Commissioner. Institutional leadership deserves credit for an important success. These individuals are responsible for W&M’s biggest athletic competitive advantage – scholar athlete outcomes 10, 15, 20 years after athlete graduations. (Parenthetically it would be a bigger advantage if the story of these outcomes could be nudged from the anecdotal to the statistical in the form of hard data generated via outreach, research, and compilation).

The above success notwithstanding, institutional leadership has also acquiesced in allowing the other arbiter of WM athletics, the CAA commissioner, to have outsized influence over sports at the College. As schools (seven in total now) have left the CAA over the years, the band aid repairs/replacements have left W&M student athletes competing in a conference that institutional leadership arguably would never have chosen as a desirable option at the outset, and with prospects for future turmoil/churn.

When pressed in the past about what composition of schools would constitute an ideal conference for W&M, institutional leadership’s response has been that there is no other school like the College. Even if this argument is accepted at face value, however, the counter-argument that there are many schools more similar to W&M than the present CAA composition is also valid.

With as much disruption as W&M has experienced in the CAA since 1979, it’s curious that institutional leadership has never undertaken (or disclosed having undertaken) a study of what W&M’s ideal conference would look like. Such an endeavor would seek to identify those factors that would result in a more logical and better fit for Tribe athletics than the present CAA construct where some
schools are only in for football, some schools don’t play football, and some schools might be contemplating leaving. Such a study might consider within and beyond the CAA on a school by school basis:

o Overall resources dedicated to athletics

o How those resources are divided amongst football, basketball, and non/low revenue sports

o Number of women’s sports/number of men’s sports

o Student body size

o Student activity fees

o Existing/planned facilities

o Entrance requirements

o Stay in school requirements

o Proximity

o Costs, time and attractiveness for athletes and fans to travel to these schools
Orono or DeLand? Hempstead or Greenville?

o Potential ticket sales/increased revenues from visiting fans

o Inclination to move to FBS football

o Cost of attendance intent (1)

It’s wonderful that the College is endeavoring to be more bold on the fund raising front, but additional vision and leadership may be as or more important. Potential conference partners should be sorted, approached, and queried.

 Have other schools performed similar studies?

 What did they learn?

 Have A10 schools found the higher profiles and revenue from one sport worth all the travel to St. Louis and Buffalo?

 If after one successful coach departed, and the men’s basketball program took a step back, would their outlook change?

 For Atlantic Sun, Northeast, and Southern Conference schools – “how do you see your programs evolving?”

It’s unlikely a conference which represents a better fit for W&M will ever come calling. In fact, one suspects such an entity will never exist without an institution like W&M taking the lead in framing a competitive landscape that other similar schools find compelling and welcoming. Assuming a position of leadership to create a more ideal conference might be controversial, but there is no better college than W&M to do so. The college hasn’t compromised itself academically since the early 1950s. The NCAA should welcome such an effort. The College is an institution that makes the NCAA look good (and the NCAA’s reciprocity for the College’s decades of outstanding behavior is a mystery).

The objective of the above examination should be for William and Mary to land in a conference where the members play both football and basketball and are committed to non/low-revenue sports such that the College is not at a competitive disadvantage versus schools which focus on one or two sports. There should be greater commonality of academic standards. There should be a presumption that member institutions consider their conference a long term home where the playing field is level, the time and costs associated with travel are reasonable, and the rivalries will be persistent. And by the way, such a conference should be the shining example of what the rest of the NCAA should resemble.

(1) Even assuming visionaries at the College went to sleep in 1979 and woke up in 2017 and concluded that the CAA had morphed into an organization that had exceeded their wildest expectations, there would still be an argument for compiling the data described above. There is always the possibility that some misguided member institution will choose to leave the CAA and leadership would desire to have objective criteria for finding a replacement. It’s a bit more complicated than in Power 5 situations where the decision hinges on whether the allure of television revenues outweighs the inconvenience (insanity) of the women’s soccer team having to travel from Miami to Syracuse.
07-10-2017 01:45 PM
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Zorch Offline
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Post: #2
RE: A Thoughtful Outlook
Once upon a time, W&M tried to construct such a conference. It was named the Patriot League and it encompassed a bunch of like-minded academic schools. However, it came to pass that those schools were not giving scholarships in football whereas W&M was, so those schools wanted W&M to drop back to a "need-based" non-scholarship system (although it turned out that this was non-scholarship in name only). W&M refused to do so and so W&M wound up joining the Yankee Conference in football, which became the A-10, which became CAA Football. So W&M tried to do this once before. The Patriot League did form, and it has had decent success in the FCS playoffs (although not nearly the success that the CAA has enjoyed).

Once upon a time, a league existed that contained W&M and a bunch of like-minded, geographically-near, relatively decent academic schools. It was called the CAA. Then, as the mystery poster pointed out, Navy, American, East Carolina, Richmond, George Mason, Old Dominion, and VCU all left for "greener pastures". So, the point is that even if W&M were to find or were to form such an ideal league, there are no guarantees how long the sister schools will choose to remain in such a conference Eden. ECU and ODU left for football reasons. Navy and American left for academic/competitive/geographic reasons (similar to what the poster says exist now for W&M), and UR, GMU, and VCU all left for basketball reasons and in search of the Holy Grail of big-time basketball (side note: interesting that the highest levels of NCAA tournament success that each of those schools has attained all occurred under the CAA banner).

So, bottom line, I am okay with being THE flagship program of the CAA (regardless of what JMU thinks; total conference championships mean more than the occasional football national championship). I am okay with moving if it makes sense but, frankly, I don't see any other conference making any more sense than our current CAA configuration. But go ahead and study it and I am prepared to listen with interest.
07-10-2017 02:43 PM
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zablenoise Offline
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Post: #3
RE: A Thoughtful Outlook
I'm not a huge fan of the as-constructed CAA but I think W&M would be very hard pressed to find a league that checks all those boxes. The Patriot League comes to mind but that would certainly seem like a step down.
07-10-2017 02:51 PM
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BigTribe3 Offline
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Post: #4
RE: A Thoughtful Outlook
While the Patriot League might be a slight step down, with Army and Navy in all sports but football
for a number of years now the Patriot is more attractive and solid than previously. It would also offer
pretty decent travel mileage for our teams..far better than the CAA.

The CAA as mentioned by several, has become a disjointed collection of universities, many of whom have little in common with W&M. It is also very possible that Delaware would also move to the Patriot if we did.

Not saying we move, but it should not be dismissed out-of-hand.
07-10-2017 04:01 PM
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Tribeheart Offline
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Post: #5
A Thoughtful Outlook
I was reading online info this morning about The Hoop Group's Academic Elite Camp last week for which Tribe target and Richmonder, Deandre Thomas, was named the most outstanding player. It struck me that they had broken team play into "Ivy League" and "Patriot League" divisions. With no "CAA" , "A10" or other divisions, it hit me that we are not athletically affiliated with other similar academic programs, and shouldn't we be. As I gave it more thought, if we were in the Ivy or Patriot, then how would we differentiate ourselves. Is it not, also, an asset being part of a strong football/solid basketball conference where we have a differentiating academic selling point. Any studies to lay out a long term guideline for conference affiliation may have surprising results that are not as obvious as we sometimes think. We may even find that the ship has been instinctively navigated in the right place all along.

With respect to W&M "leading" a conference development that "fits"
the best interests of associated schools, I'm not sure it isn't a little self grandizing to think we alone can drive an athletic affiliation, unless there is a unique model for athletic direction that we propose whose time has come relative to costs and priorities, and simply resonates differently from what is already out there.

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07-10-2017 04:55 PM
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SoCal Frank Offline
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Post: #6
RE: A Thoughtful Outlook
What needs to be addressed is how we can get better players? COA is essential. Fully funding baseball is critical. Selective coaching additions are needed. We can't compete at a higher level without better players. To have greater success at this level we need better players. Without better players we can go along. This appears to be the status quo.
07-10-2017 05:36 PM
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tribeintexas Offline
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Post: #7
RE: A Thoughtful Outlook
I think it is inevitable JMU football will move to FBS sooner or later. Other CAA schools might follow as most CAA schools have much larger student body than W&M (COC 12,000, Drexel 26,000, JMU 21,000, Towson 22,000, Wilmington 16,000).

I totally agree that many of CAA schools have nothing in common with W&M. With the departures of ODU, Richmond, and VCU, CAA does't offer us any local rivalries either. Our playing Elon, COC, Hofstra and others just doesn't excite me as I don't know much about these schools. To me, CAA is a league in decline which survives by adding new schools every couple years after existing members leave.

I don't know if Patriot will be a fit for us. Maybe it is maybe it is not. I do think we need to give a careful consideration.
07-10-2017 06:21 PM
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nj alum Offline
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Post: #8
RE: A Thoughtful Outlook
I would push the CAA football league to take legal steps to move up to FBS as a league (G-5 level) or see if the MAC would take JMU, Delaware, Tribe, Stony Brook, Albany, and one other school for a six team eastern division of an 18 team league, with cost-containment rules.

When the inevitable G-5 shake-up occurs to allow the East Coast schools to have their own conference, W&M must already be at the G-5 level to be a beneficiary of this shake-up/consolidation.

My views on this are simple. W&M must do what it takes to continue to play ACC schools in all sports. The current CAA allows this, but for how long?
07-10-2017 10:05 PM
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HyperDuke Offline
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Post: #9
RE: A Thoughtful Outlook
(07-10-2017 02:43 PM)Zorch Wrote:  So, bottom line, I am okay with being THE flagship program of the CAA (regardless of what JMU thinks; total conference championships mean more than the occasional football national championship).

I don't care to argue JMU vs W&M as CAA "flagship". I have plenty of respect for W&M and appreciate how unique the College is as far as having real academic standards for ALL students. I will just offer that JMU fully funds ALL sports while W&M does not, so by that measure, W&M has some catching up to do. If measuring by number of annual conference championships earned, I have no qualms bowing to the Tribe's prowess. Not trying to put words in your mouth, but the above came across to me as if we are some kind of football version of VCU with all eggs in one basket (football).
07-11-2017 06:03 AM
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Sitting bull Offline
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Post: #10
RE: A Thoughtful Outlook
I think the CAA is as good of a home as available for W&M these days. It's regional with a distinct position, Boston to Charleston. The members overall are good peers for W&M and each other. There are enough schools with real rivalry attributes (UD, JMU, UR in football, beginning to hate Hofstra, etc) and regional stature (Northeastern, Charleston).

I just don't see any other options which are even close. The PL is probably the closest though as our Pres. mentioned, they look more like each other than we any of them. They are smaller, private schools in the Northeast, not exactly the best fit for W&M.

The bigger issue - there just aren't many - you could argue ANY - schools similar to W&M - one with the national credentials, the academics, the athletic history - to "peer" with. The closest variety are actually ACC schools. Too late for that. Also some "peer" options in the AAC - Navy, Temple, Tulane, SMU - eventually Rice.

Whatever happened to Magnolia League and his vision?
07-11-2017 07:22 AM
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