As we slog through the dog days of summer, it’s easy to forget that college basketball never really stops. Freshmen are arriving on campus, schedules are being announced and coaches are hot on the recruiting trail. To ensure you’re up to speed when the season finally gets started, here are a few developments in the CAA that you may have missed.
Commissioner Yeager Retires
Tom Yeager, the first and only commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association for the past 31 years, stepped down on June 30 after a brief farewell tour during March Madness. In his decades of service, Yeager saw two men’s teams make it to the Final Four (George Mason in 2006 and VCU in 2011) and a large restructuring of the conference that transformed it from a Virginia/North Carolina nucleus to one that stretches from Boston to Charleston. Joe D’Antonio will succeed Yeager. He previously served as Senior Associate Commissioner of the Big East.
New Officiating Alliance
In June, the CAA announced an alliance with the ACC, Big East and Atlantic 10 to work together on improving consistency and training among basketball officials. Not unlike the recently announced ASun/SEC/AAC alliance, the new agreement should make for a better product on the floor. Last year, fans griped that the officiating they saw on Thursday nights differed greatly from what they saw on Saturdays, when there’s a smaller pool of referees to pull from. As several noteworthy rule changes were instituted with mixed results last season, this alliance should help clarify things.
Non-conference schedules take shape
Once again, the CAA is going to have an early opportunity to make some noise. We already know that Hofstra will play Kentucky at the Barclays Center in December. Charleston, meanwhile, might get two opportunities to upset NCAA champions Villanova — the Cougars return to hosting their home-gym Charleston Classic opposite the Wildcats in the bracket, and then trek up to Philadelphia for an assured opportunity. Towson will play in-state rival Maryland, along with CAA rematches against George Mason and Old Dominion, before participating in the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic.
New Blood on the Benches
The 2016-17 season will see three head coaches make their debuts in the CAA: Zach Spiker at Drexel, Louis Rowe at James Madison and Martin Ingelsby at Delaware. All three will try to replicate the instant success that Kevin Keatts, Joe Mihalich and Pat Skerry have displayed in the CAA in recent years. Out of the league’s 10 head coaches, six have fewer than four years of experience with their current program. It’s possible to quickly rebuild in this conference, so expect at least one of the three rookie coaches to make an instant impact.
New TV Contract
When the CAA was the first college conference to partner with the brand-new NBC Sports Network in 2012, VCU was coming off a Final Four berth and both George Mason and Old Dominion were still part of the league. Fast forward to the end of the five-year contract and both parties are looking at different options. It’s been reported that NBC Sports is not going to renew -- likely because conference realignment produced a bit of a bait-and-switch for the network. D’Antonio will be looking at options that could include ESPN, the Comcast regional networks or American Sports Network, likely with a large streaming component. This time around we’ll be able to accurately gauge the league’s entertainment value.