Mention the Colonial Athletic Conference to any hoops fan and they will tell you about the league’s success in the NCAA Tournament and also identify it by its Virginia home base.
The city of Richmond, most notably has been the home of the CAA Men’s Tournament since 1990. With Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond both now out of the league, there was seemingly no reason to keep the tournament in Virginia’s Capital City.
This year, its final in Richmond, it anti-climactic as only seven teams will be eligible for the final tournament in Richmond. The city deserves a better fate, but, it, like many other cities are watching rivalries end as the business of College Sports, changes dramatically everyday.
The league lost VCU and Old Dominion in the summer, as the Rams left for the Atlantic-10, and the Monarchs, a charter member who left once before for the Sun Belt Conference in 1982, are leaving and taking it’s football to FBS Level in Conference USA. The CAA without Old Dominion, is like Hershey’s without Chocolate.
The league will continue. Commissioner Tom Yeager has hit the ground running and added College of Charleston, Stony Brook and Albany as future members.
The First Mariner Arena has not exactly overwhelmed folks with it’s structure over the years, hosting some entertainment events and whats left of professional indoor soccer. Baltimore however as a city, is top notch when it comes to hosting events. It has hosted Army-Navy, Navy-Maryland and Navy-Notre Dame in football. It has handled good crowds for international soccer friendlies and still has one of the most attractive nightlifes for tourists who will come to town from fellow CAA Cities. Its also three hours closer for the Northeast based teams which perhaps gives the conference a better chance to attract a crowd, and might even find a few more media outlets to cover the tournament.
There’s a lot to like about the tournament in Baltimore. It’s more of a neutral site. VCU clearly had a great advantage. There is also a chance, that it could blow up too. Your completely reliant on people now coming to Baltimore as an attraction to draw people to the tournament. If VCU was playing, you knew there would be a great crowd. Towson is not a powerful draw by any means yet. Don’t expect Tigers fans to come in droves to First Mariner. The Tigers played a game against a local rival in Loyola, who made last years NCAA Tournament, and the game drew a whopping announced crowd of 1,376! This will be a neutral site.
“We think it will be an outstanding venue for our fans who spend numerous days in the host city and we look forward to the success of the tournament in Baltimore,” Yeager said.
As great as the league has been and has done in NCAA Tournament, play, only four programs have won the tournament since 1999. Only one of those programs, George Mason, is eligible for the 2013 tournament. The others, VCU and ODU are out and UNC-Wilmington is ineligible due to poor APR scores
“it’s a good move for the CAA. fans have been asking for a new site for the tournament for years and now they have it,” said George Mason Play-by-play voice Bill Rohland. “With no VCU and Richmond in the league it makes sense to take it somewhere else on a three-year trial basis.”
The CAA is no longer the great conference we once knew. Reality is, solid programs have left the building, Richmond, VCU, ODU, but, knew rivalries are here to be made. Stony Brook and Albany have growing programs. College of Charleston has a former CAA Champ in Doug Wojcik who was the point guard feeding David Robinson in Navy’s dominant years in the 80′s. Wojcik is now the head Coach at Charleston.
Give Yeager credit, while some conferences are spinning their wheels trying to gain traction, the CAA has wasted little time rebuilding, and made a positive move with the tournament to Baltimore. Now, it’s up to the schools to bring a quality product, that might being visitors and dollars to Maryland.