There's a game of musical chairs going on in college athletics as the landscape of Division I sports continues to push towards the super-conference as schools begin to scurry to find their spot on the NCAA food chain. It all got started when the Big XII nearly became a dinosaur when Nebraska bolted for the Big Ten and Colorado made its way to the now Pac 12. Texas and Oklahoma were nearly courted to head out west, but ultimately stayed. The Big XII still had to go into survival mode as it snatched up West Virginia and TCU while it lost Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC.
This game has continued to every level of Division I athletic conference and its now working its way to the Colonial Athletic Association. The CAA had 12 members who played Division I sports and a combination of those members and other schools to form a 12 team football conference that was one of the deepest and most powerful leagues in FCS football. Like the Big 12, the CAA could put be into a position where it needs to quickly finds members to stay in existence.
That's where Coastal Carolina comes into play. CoastalFans.com posted the following item on its Twitter feed:
"In an early morning meeting, the Athletics Committee of the Board of Trustees approved a motion to give President David DeCenzo the authority to "take all action" necessary to facilitate Coastal's departure from the Big South & joining a new conference. This motion will be considered by the entire Board of Trustees in their session tomorrow (Friday 5/4), and if passed will be the first step toward finding a new conference home for the Chanticleers."
This is a proactive and logical move by the brass at CCU. What this maneuver does is put Coastal Carolina in a position to be able to find a chair when the musical chairs game heats up in the coming weeks. This time around it isn't the BCS super conferences that are in the game, but the mid-major schools who are deciding between jumping to the bottom of 1-A football to FCS schools that are looking to align with the best conference possible. Coastal has seen the first ripple effects and are wisely getting its ducks in a row.
The puzzle pieces are scattered all over the landscape in many different forms. The Colonial has now lost two schools that are going up from FCS to FBS football (UMass to the MAC in football only and Georgia State to the Sun Belt in all sports). Rhode Island is going in the other direction from the powerful FCS conference to a lower profile league in the Northeast Conference. Now comes news that Old Dominion is on the verge of following suit and joining Conference USA. Hofstra and Northeastern got out of the FCS football game prior to this making a potential five CAA football members leaving the league. Villanova fits into the mold of a school that could jump up to FBS football and could join its other sports in the Big East. If CAA commissioner Tom Yeager doesn't have enough stress on his plate, there's the other side of the coin. The CAA all-sports members lost Georgia State and could now see VCU and George Mason bolt for the Atlantic 10. The A-10 just scored mid-major basketball darling Butler and lost Charlotte to Conference-USA and VCU and GMU would make a powerful basketball league.
That's where Coastal Carolina comes in. As conferences continue to raid each others memberships, the CAA is at a crossroads. Every current CAA member who has not officially made the move to another league has to be lining up a "Plan B" - If the pieces continue to fall into place, the MAC, NEC and Patriot Leagues will all be ready to take on new members. The Colonial could be no more unless it begins to fill in the missing slots and Coastal Carolina is a fit that can help both of the CAA's problems. With Coastal a full fledged Colonial member, it can help the football and all sports problem.
The Colonial situation will eventually play its way down to the Big South. Like Coastal Carolina, Stony Brook and Liberty are two potential institutions that can move up the food chain. Liberty is talking about moving to FBS football while Stony Brook has the attraction of the #1 media market and like Coastal a good solution for the Colonial. Stony Brook would fill the Northeast void left by Rhode Island and be a good travel partner with CAA all sports school Hofstra. Coastal would have its all sports rivalry with UNC-Wilmington. The Colonial recently signed a TV deal with NBC Sports cable outfit and is officially in survival mode.
The Southern Conference seems to be stable at the moment with the only threat being Appalachian State jumping to FBS football. Whether the SoCon tries to add members as all of this plays out remains to be seen. It's early in the game, but Coastal Carolina is ready to put itself in the conversation. If the Chanticleers do not take a proactive mindset, they could see Liberty and Stony Brook leave the Big South and watch the league lose its automatic bid in FCS football and see the RPI's in baseball and basketball plummet to even lower levels.
The puzzle pieces are still jumbled and nowhere near close to being totally put together, but the Chanticleers piece is about to be officially put on the side of the table and ready to get slotted in.