Albany County

College programs leaving both America East, MAAC; could UAlbany look to make a move?

UAlbany men’s basketball Jarvis Doles during practice at SEFCU Arena in Albany on Tuesday, January 25, 2022.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

UAlbany men’s basketball Jarvis Doles during practice at SEFCU Arena in Albany on Tuesday, January 25, 2022.

Three dominoes fell.

The way the college conference realignment game goes, though, it’s unlikely they’ll be the last.

And it’s fair to ask if UAlbany will take a turn of its own at some point.

On Tuesday, the Colonial Athletic Association formally announced the not-well-kept secret that three schools — Hampton, Monmouth and Stony Brook — were leaving their current conferences to join it, starting July 1 later this year.

To Capital Region sports fans, two of those three schools are very familiar names. Monmouth currently plays in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with Siena, while Stony Brook has been a member of the America East Conference, a league that the majority of UAlbany’s programs call home.

The MAAC only has called Monmouth a member since 2013, and the basketball-focused league will still have 10 members without the Hawks. It’s possible the Saints’ league could stay with 10, but trying to find one or two other schools to join the conference is also a possible scenario.

Siena athletic director John D’Argenio signaled Tuesday that the school remains committed to the MAAC. 

“We wish our friends at Monmouth University all the best as they depart for the Colonial Athletic Association. There is no doubt that as colleges and universities continue to best position themselves, that we can expect more changes to take place nationally,” D’Argenio said in a statement issued through the school’s athletic department. “Siena greatly values our more-than-three-decades-long association with the MAAC, where we’ve been able to grow our athletic programs — especially basketball — with other like-minded colleges and universities that share in our values.”

While losing Monmouth isn’t a positive for the league, the nondescript tone of the statement MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor released Tuesday served as a reminder that college programs changing leagues is no longer a shocking event.

“The MAAC membership wishes the student-athletes and coaches of Monmouth University the best of luck as the school transitions to a new conference and as the school’s teams complete their MAAC competition this winter and spring,” Ensor said. “In the midst of conference realignment all around us, we are confident of the strength of the MAAC conference schools and their continued commitment to competition in the core sports of our student-athletes.”

The America East, though, is in a much different spot than the MAAC. Another basketball-focused league, the America East has 10 schools in it this academic year — and two of them won’t continue with the conference. Besides Stony Brook, which is leaving for a league that generally outranks the America East, Hartford is transitioning its athletic programs to the Division III ranks.

That means the America East, at the moment, has eight schools committed to it for next season, which means it’s nearing the minimum a conference needs for automatic-qualifier status for the NCAA tournament — and is a major reason why the statement issued from Brad Walker, the America East’s first-year commissioner, ended with a note that the league “will continue to pursue membership options that strengthen us even further.”

UAlbany, though, might not wait to see how a revamped America East looks. Its football program already plays in the CAA, and that league has made clear it’s open to further expansion following Tuesday’s announced additions, with a North/South divisional split looking increasingly likely for the league that found out last November it was losing James Madison and its powerhouse football program to the Sun Belt Conference.

In a teleconference Tuesday, CAA commissioner Joe D’Antonio declined to say what other schools the football-focused league had been in talks with regarding membership, but it’s a fair estimation that a school that already plays in the conference’s flagship sport would get a call . . . which was why it was notable that UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson released a statement Tuesday acknowledging Stony Brook’s exit from the conference that said, in part, how “the reality of college athletics is that conference alignments are always evolving as schools seek the arrangements that best meet their unique needs and best serve their student-athletes.”

More notable, though, was that Benson’s statement was released through a spokesperson and carried with it the note that “Mark and the rest of our athletics staff will have no further comment at this time,” regarding Tuesday’s CAA announcement, and Benson did decline to comment when reached by The Daily Gazette on if UAlbany — an America East member since 2001 — had any talks with the CAA about bringing more of its athletic programs into that league.

The significance to all that, to put it simply: If the Great Danes hadn’t had any discussions with the CAA, there would be no reason not to say that Tuesday.

The Great Danes basketball teams did meet Tuesday with reporters in advance of their games Wednesday against UMass Lowell. When asked about Stony Brook’s planned departure from the America East, UAlbany women’s basketball head coach Colleen Mullen said that was a topic she “can’t really comment on,” while men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings offered up a bit more than that.

“That’s the reality of college basketball and college athletics,” Killings said of hearing about Stony Brook’s upcoming move. “You never know what’s going to happen the next day.”

Conferences do handle exits differently in terms of postseason participation for outgoing schools. While the MAAC confirmed that Monmouth will be allowed to compete in its postseason tournaments during the rest of the 2021-22 academic year, an America East spokesperson said that “a final determination has not been made” regarding Stony Brook’s participation in future conference playoff games.  

“Our bylaws state that once a school notifies the conference of its withdrawal, it becomes ineligible for participation in America East Championships,” the spokesperson said. “However, all aspects of Stony Brook’s exit are being reviewed by the Board of Presidents and that determination will be made prior to the start of winter championships.”

Without Monmouth, the MAAC’s full-time members moving forward are Canisius, Fairfield, Iona, Manhattan, Marist, Niagara, Quinnipiac, Rider, Saint Peter’s and Siena. Without Hartford and Stony Brook, the America East’s full-time members include UAlbany, Binghamton, Maine, New Hampshire, NJIT, UMass Lowell, UMBC and Vermont.

The addition of Hampton, Monmouth and Stony Brook will increase the CAA’s full-time membership to 12. Those three schools join Charleston, Delaware, Drexel, Elon, Hofstra, UNC Wilmington, Northeastern, Towson and William & Mary.

Thirteen schools, including UAlbany, are set to play CAA football next season. Other non-full members that play football in the CAA are Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Richmond and Villanova.

Like UAlbany and fellow America East members Maine and New Hampshire, Stony Brook already played CAA football.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

0 Comments

No Comment.