Elon University joined the Colonial Athletic Association today. One season after losing four key movers and shakers from the conference, the CAA has added Elon University.
Undergraduate class of 6,029.
Located in Elon, North Carolina. Wherever that is.
2012-13 record of 21-12, good for first in the North division of the Southern Conference.
In short: Elon University plays sports and is technically a university, but not one that has ever proven relevant in the eyes of people outside of North Carolina or fans of SoCon athletics.
So why did the CAA feel compelled to add them?
I really can't answer this question with a straight face. It's been hard to sit on the sidelines and try to report on the CAA without adding too much opinion into my articles, which is why I've had to move to a FanPost for a second.
Tom Yeager and the Colonial Athletic Association haven't grasped how dire of a situation the conference is in.
They just lost their founding member, George Mason, in a whirlwind move that nobody saw coming. It was a sort of disembodied ghost in the wind after the season ended, easily lost in the hubbub of James Madison's NCAA Tournament bid.
But the Patriots, like the VCU Rams, abandoned their Virginia-based home within a decade of making it to the Final Four on the back of the conference's automatic birth, and the Colonial is now hemorrhaging talent and recognition.
According to MMMad's Parks Smith, and most in the know, James Madison is rumored to have one foot, one arm, and all of its bags on the way out as well. The Sun Belt is beckoning them to follow Georgia State to the sunnier pastures of its conference, a definite heartbreaker if it goes through.The Dukes have a big(ger) name head coach, name recognition, and really snazzy uniforms. If they bolt the conference, almost all of the Colonial's recognizable basketball schools will have vanished in a two-year span.
All of this context is why the Elon announcement bothers me so.
It's hard to fault Yeager for trying to bring in more schools, no matter the profile or program history, because having a nine-school basketball league was going to be somewhat of an embarrassment for a conference so steeped in history and respected in mid-major circles. They don't always have the talent levels of the MVC or A-10, especially not recently, but the Colonial is the Colonial. The conference needs to maintain a profile.
But volume for volume's sake is not the way to approach realignment. If the CAA is serious about getting back into the mid-major game, a no-name school like Elon -- I promise I'll be nicer once the season rolls around, Phoenix fans -- is not the addition the conference needs.
If I were Matt Brady, head coach of James Madison, and I saw Tom Yeager proudly parading a school like Elon around at a press conference, it would almost embarrass me.
When a conference is starting to collapse in on itself, it needs to make big splashes, whether they pay off or not. Elon University is not a big splash. The rumored Albany addition is a bigger splash, but it too is not enough.
The CAA needs a big school. East Tennessee State? They kind of count. Davidson would have been nice.
No matter the current rumblings, the ADs at the top of the conference need to realize where their conference is: in need of something big.
Elon University is not big.