College Basketball Nation: Tom Yeager

On Tuesday, Colonial Athletic Association commissioner Tom Yeager delivered the bad news. The CAA's members had organized a pow-wow, held a vote, and reached a decision about the championship eligibility of the schools (Old Dominion and Georgia State, specifically) leaving the conference this season.

In the end, as Yeager announced, the vote merely reaffirmed the league's bylaws, which state that "upon notice of an institution’s intent to withdraw, the institution’s teams become ineligible on a date determined by the remaining members to compete for Association team championships." In other words, ODU and Georgia State will be frozen out of conference tournament play this season. They can still go to the NCAA tournament and other postseason events, but if they do, that participation will be invite-only -- a long shot for either of the schools involved.

Needless to say, Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor and Georgia State coach Ron Hunter were not thrilled with the decision. They shared their mutual displeasure with Andy Katz Wednesday morning:
Georgia State coach Ron Hunter gathered his team together Tuesday and told his players that they are essentially on their own next season.

"I told them we're an independent," Hunter said. "That's what we are now. It's no fault of theirs. We made a move for football. And we're paying the consequences. The bad part is that this is the only league in the country where this is happening. From this point forward, we're an independent basketball team."

ODU coach Blaine Taylor was just as irked as Hunter.

"They gave a 3-week-old weather report," Taylor said. "The league grandstanded so long to make a such a big announcement. We knew three weeks ago at the league meetings. They tried to look for every additional thing they could do. But the lack of collegial approach was eye-opening to me." [...]

"The CAA doesn't offer it," Taylor said. "It just seems very narrow-minded. They're hurting 17 sports. If you want to leave this league, you better do it like the Baltimore Colts in the middle of the night. Most of the leagues make everything seamless as possible. The CAA is a completely different act."

See? Not thrilled. Not thrilled at all.

Hunter and Taylor have a point, one our own Dana O'Neil made in late May, when the same issue precipitated VCU's quicker-than-anticipated jump to the Atlantic 10. The recipients of the real harm by this decision are the student-athletes, who are being punished for little more than bad timing. In particular, the seniors on both teams -- for whom the 2012-13 season would be a last chance at a conference title and NCAA tournament berth -- must feel especially bad. They did nothing wrong. They have no part in their school's decision. And yet they essentially lose a season to between-conference limbo, and why? So the CAA can try to close ranks and prevent itself from a future realignment raid. It's entirely unfair.

But who is really to blame? The CAA? Or the schools that chose to leave the conference in the first place? CAA Hoops -- the go-to blog for daily in-depth Colonial analysis -- sees things differently:
But as we’ve maintained from the start, the blood is on the hands of the Old Dominion and Georgia State administrators. They knew the rule going into their discussions about moving to a new conference. This was certainly a part of their internal discussions. They chose to move forward anyway with this risk known. [...]

This wasn’t a rule passed at a point in time that ODU and GSU could plausibly say was after they began looking for a new home. It predates Georgia State’s entry into the conference.

We’ve had 11 seasons that this could’ve been addressed, if it was indeed a big deal. There’s also something to be said for consistency. The CAA has driven right down Main Street with its decisions. Nobody can complain of any unfair treatment.

It should be noted the Colonial isn't gaining much from this decision; without Georgia State and ODU (and Towson and UNC-Wilmington, who will miss out thanks to poor APR scores), the league will field just seven teams in its 2013 conference tournament.

Really, the decision is about enforcement -- about where to draw the line when your league's future may be at stake. At the end of the day, the Colonial is more a victim of realignment than a victor. Faced with the trickle-down economics of conference realignment, when attractive schools are greedily gobbled by leagues higher and higher up the food chain, the CAA is merely trying to create some sort of defensive structure -- a moat around its castle, so to speak. You can hardly fault them for that, no more than you can for enforcing a decade-old rule.

You can understand the CAA's prerogative while still feeling that the student-athletes involved are getting a bum deal. This is realignment, and all that comes with it. The worst part: I can't think of a good solution. Can you?
1. Atlantic 10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade isn’t hiding her joy over getting Butler a year early for next season. She said the league will be “seriously tough’’ in 2012-13 -- and she’s right. The A-10 will have as competitively balanced a league as it has had in years. VCU and Butler will compete for the league title with Saint Louis. Expect Temple and Xavier to be in the mix, as well as rising teams like UMass, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s. No one should dismiss St. Bonaventure, even though Andrew Nicholson is gone, or Dayton or Richmond. Butler's early arrival will necessitate a number of scheduling adjustments as the league jumps to 18 games from 16, since that’s two fewer non-conference games teams may or may not have scheduled.

2. Horizon League commissioner John LeCrone now has to do what Tom Yeager is attempting for the CAA: find a high-profile replacement. Yeager will attempt to woo Davidson and/or Charleston out of the Southern; LeCrone has to find a team in the Midwest to replace Butler. I can’t see a MAC school like Ohio going to the Horizon. Oakland makes more sense since it’s near Detroit. The Grizzlies have been a solid program under Greg Kampe. Simply put, the Horizon won’t or can’t replace Butler, but will have to make a serious attempt to come even half as close -- and sooner than later.

3. Iowa State’s decision to reward Fred Hoiberg with a new eight-year contract is a win-win for both parties. Hoiberg has shown no desire to run back to the NBA and has made a commitment to restoring the Cyclones to relevancy. He took a major step this past season in leading them to the NCAA tournament. Iowa State desperately needed consistency and a face of the program at a time when the Big 12 is navigating a new era. Iowa State can’t afford to fall behind, and it won’t under Hoiberg. Hoiberg has the right demeanor to take in transfers, as if he is creating an NBA roster of free agents, to make Iowa State competitive.
1. Colonial Athletic Association commissioner Tom Yeager said he was well aware that signing a new agreement with NBC Sports would likely mean the end of the CAA’s involvement in the ESPN-sponsored BracketBusters, beginning in 2013. “We are disappointed but we understand the business,’’ Yeager said. He said that the benefits of signing with NBC outweighed the risks of losing a spot in BracketBusters. VCU coach Shaka Smart agreed that no longer participating in BracketBusters wasn’t good. The CAA has had some of the best wins in the event, notably by George Mason, VCU and Drexel.

2. Third parties representing TCU and SMU showed interest in Memphis coach Josh Pastner, according to sources, but there was no interest on his part. And there shouldn’t be at this point. Pastner is at the best job in Conference USA. When Memphis goes to the Big East in 2013, he’ll be at one of the best in that league, too. Pastner should only leave if he has to or for a comparable job, not a lesser one.

3. SMU also made overtures toward Harvard coach Tommy Amaker. Amaker wasn’t interested, either. A year ago, Miami made a strong push to get him. But Amaker knows he is in a special place at Harvard and will coach another Ivy League title contender. His NCAA tournament berth last month was historic for the Crimson. And now the most recognized school in higher education cares about hoops. That in itself is quite an accomplishment.

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