Coaches love a cause, especially an us-against-the-world cause. Old Dominion’s teams have just that in 2012-13.
The Monarchs’ foil will be anyone and everyone associated with the Colonial Athletic Association, which Tuesday affirmed that ODU is ineligible for 2012-13 conference team championship events and subsequent automatic bids to NCAA postseason.
“Now we know the ground rules,” Monarchs basketball coach Blaine Taylor said. “Now we know how strongly everyone is taking a position against us. …
“We’ll band together and we’ll bunker in.”
Athletic director Wood Selig and university president John Broderick knew this was a possible (probable?) outcome when they decided last month to move ODU from its long-time CAA home to Conference USA, effective in 2013-14. CAA bylaws state that departing schools can not receive the league’s automatic NCAA bids and, therefore, are banned from competing in CAA tournaments.
In fact, the rule was applied to exiting Richmond, American and East Carolina during their 2000-01 lame-duck CAA season.
But ODU and Georgia State, which is leaving for the Sun Belt Conference, asked CAA presidents to waive the bylaw. They declined unanimously, commissioner Tom Yeager said.
“We felt like given what we had meant to the CAA over the decades, and given the fact that we were doing everything with transparency, that we could make a viable case,” Selig said.
This was ODU’s strongest argument. Even Yeager had applauded the school for keeping him informed of its Conference USA deliberations, in stark contrast, he said, to VCU, which last month left the CAA for the Atlantic 10, effective immediately.
VCU officials said their rushed departure was motivated by the CAA’s bylaws.
“I think the CAA is so mad at VCU they took advantage of (an) entity that tried to handle things right,” Taylor said. “It’s kind of a sad state of affairs. The statement that’s being made loud and clear is, you need to be like the Baltimore Colts and move in the middle of the night.”
Indeed, ODU was honorable in keeping Yeager abreast of its intentions, fueled by an ambition to upgrade from football’s Championship Subdivision to Bowl Subdivision. But that didn’t obligate the CAA to waive its rules.
Yeager was the key figure. Had he lobbied the presidents on behalf of ODU and Georgia State, they likely would have concurred. But bailing schools and the stress of finding replacements do not a charitable commissioner make.
What of the athletes who will be denied an opportunity to win a conference title in 2012-13?
“That’s a question that those institutions that withdrew need to answer to their student-athletes,” Yeager said firmly.
Regardless of your stance, let’s be clear: This is not tragic. ODU’s teams still can qualify for NCAA tournaments. They simply need to earn at-large invitations.
For example, if CAA football is as strong as usual in 2012, a top-three finish will virtually assure Bobby Wilder’s Monarchs a second consecutive at-large playoff bid.
Similarly, given the stout non-conference schedule Taylor annually crafts, ODU will contend for an at-large NCAA tournament invitation if it’s among the CAA’s best two or three. The Monarchs earned such a bid in 2007
“The bottom line is, really, nothing has changed,” Selig said. “All or teams can still get to the NCAA and can still go after national championships.”
What will change dramatically is the CAA men’s basketball tournament, a 12-team event the past seven years. Absent VCU, ODU and Georgia State, and with UNC Wilmington and Towson ineligible because of NCAA academic penalties, the league will conduct a seven-team tournament in March.
The question is: Where? The CAA is contracted with perennial partner Richmond Coliseum through 2014, but without crowd magnets VCU and ODU, Yeager said a move for 2013 is possible.
Yeager’s most pressing issue is replacing ODU, VCU and Georgia State. The most mentioned candidates include Davidson, Furman, Elon and the College of Charleston from the Southern Conference, and Stony Brook from the American East.
“Suffice to say,” Yeager said in declining to discuss candidates, “we’re active in the conference membership business.”
And suffice to say, ODU has some scores to settle during its CAA farewell.
“They get a little more grit in their craw and they say, ‘Let’s show them on our way out,’” Selig said of Monarchs athletes. “That’s the positive way to approach the decision.
“We just need to be careful we don’t get hyper-aggressive over it and exhibit poor sportsmanship. There’s a delicate balance in using this in a healthy, positive, competitive way versus letting it push you beyond the tipping point.”
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