Over the past few years, college football teams switching amongst conferences has been running rampant. Most of the attention is going to the Football Bowl Subdivision teams, with teams such as the University of Missouri and Texas A&M University switching to the Southeastern Conference and odd moves that almost had Texas Christian University playing in the Big East. The Football Championship Subdivision, the level of college football that the University of Maine plays on, has not been immune to these changes either. As a matter of fact, these changes might be positive ones for the Black Bears’ future as a football program.
With the departure of Northeastern University in 2009 and University of Massachusetts in 2011, the Colonial Athletic Association seemed to be moving farther away from New England. UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove has mentioned before that the conference was shifting farther south, and it was just going to be something that UMaine was going to have to deal with.
However, recent changes have been announced, and it might affect the balance of North and South in the CAA. The State University of New York at Albany and the State University of New York at Stony Brook have announced that in 2013, they will be joining the CAA. The University of Rhode Island was considering leaving, but has decided to stay. This will set up an ideal conference, according to Cosgrove.
“With the addition of Albany and Stony Brook and the return of Rhode Island, it has changed things tremendously. It looked like it was just [University of Maine] and [University of] New Hampshire, now we have three more teams in the northeast, and I think that’s huge for our conference and football in the northeast in general,” Cosgrove said.
“I think it certainly sets us back in the direction of where we can have a CAA with a North and a South, which is what I would say is an ideal type of conference with two six-team divisions,” Cosgrove added. “You play within your division and you go outside your division three games a year, it really makes scheduling a lot more favorable for everybody, and it creates a much more economic because you can be on the bus a lot more.”
There is one odd drawback to the shifting of the CAA, however. This year, Georgia State University will be a member, and this will be its only year of membership. Before the conference can get to the 12 teams and ideal alignment, it will have to play out this year first. While Cosgrove doesn’t agree with Georgia State’s actions, it is just something that has to be dealt with.
“I don’t get to say anything about that. I don’t think it’s right,” Cosgrove said. “When a team comes into a conference they should commit for a period of time, it’s a way of securing some kind of stability. It’s the way it’s gone, and we live and learn.”
There have been other shifts in the conference over the years, and UMaine as well as rival University of New Hampshire have been consistent as far as conference movement. Cosgrove says it’s good to have a solid foundation in one conference.
“Certainly, the league itself creates a tremendous challenge for both programs,” Cosgrove said. “New Hampshire, with eight straight trips to the playoffs — that is a very recognizable accomplishment. I think both schools have demonstrated a commitment to the CAA. One [fact] that I think gets [forgotten] is that both of us have been in the league since 1947. The original league was the Yankee Conference, then it was the Atlantic-10 and now it’s the CAA. We’re kind of the rocks in the league. It’s nice to be that senior member in a lot of ways.”