CAA Basketball: Comments on the Latest Conference Developments

Joe CampioneContributor IIIJune 20, 2012

Old Dominion, along with Georgia State, will not be allowed to compete for the 2013 CAA Championship
Old Dominion, along with Georgia State, will not be allowed to compete for the 2013 CAA Championship

Yesterday, the CAA held a press conference to talk about the eligibility of Old Dominion and Georgia State in this year's CAA Tournament and there was even some mention about the location of the CAA Tournament. 

First, let's talk about the eligibility issue.

The league presidents unanimously decided to uphold the conference's bylaw which states that no team who is departing from the conference may compete for the conference's championship and automatic NCAA bid, nor can they receive the conference's automatic NIT bid for winning the regular season.

The reason this bylaw was put in place was quite simple: to prevent a team who is leaving the CAA from being the sole representative of the conference on a national stage.

This is not a new bylaw either. It was first enforced back in 2001 when East Carolina, American, and Richmond decided to leave the CAA. None of the teams were allowed to compete in the CAA Tournament that season, including Richmond, who had been a five-time CAA champion up until that point. American University even sued the CAA over being banned from the tournament.

And yet, both ODU and Georgia State are complaining that the conference enforcement of the bylaw is unfair.

Ron Hunter, the coach of Georgia State, was quoted as saying, "The bad part is that this is the only league in the country where this is happening." 

Well Ron, that's both true and not true. Although I can't think of another conference that explicitly has a bylaw like this, the Horizon League had been looking into banning Butler from their postseason tournament, prompting the Bulldogs to speed up their move to the A-10. 

Ron Hunter and Georgia State have been outspoken about not being able to participate in next year's tournament, but their argument only holds so much water
Ron Hunter and Georgia State have been outspoken about not being able to participate in next year's tournament, but their argument only holds so much water

I would argue that the CAA has been much more fair than the Horizon League in this instance, as the rule was readily known about beforehand, is a physical written rule, and the CAA even listened and voted on a formal appeal of the bylaw from ODU and Georgia State as opposed to just saying, "rules are rules."

Blaine Taylor, the coach of ODU, has been a very vocal advocate of allowing his team to compete in this year's tournament from day one, and yes, he's right when he says that ODU's move to the C-USA was in the name of football. While it's unfortunate that the move for football has hurt basketball, that's not a reason to let them compete in the CAA Tournament. ODU knew the bylaw and chose to leave anyway.

Sometimes, you just can't have your cake and eat it too.

Many of you may be saying, "Well, he's just a George Mason guy. He wouldn't feel this way if the roles were reversed."

While that's certainly a valid point to bring up, I did talk about the bylaw as a potential drawback of Mason leaving the conference when rumors were running wild about the Patriots leaving for the A-10 a few months ago.

I, unlike Blaine Taylor and Run Hunter, accepted that not competing in the 2013 CAA Tournament would be an unfortunate after effect of leaving the CAA.

Then there's the issue of where the conference tournament is going to take place anyway. Since 1990, the CAA Tournament has been held in the Richmond Coliseum, which is located a mere two miles from the heart of VCU's campus.

Yesterday, CAA commissioner Tom Yeager announced that the CAA is looking to possibly move the tournament from Richmond as soon as next season, despite their contract with the Richmond Coliseum running through 2014, with an option to extend it to 2016. 

Blaine Taylor has led the charge against the CAA's bylaw
Blaine Taylor has led the charge against the CAA's bylaw

Had this announcement been made a year ago, I would be jumping for joy. The Richmond Coliseum has been a house of horrors for George Mason, particularly against VCU, who was the unofficial host team of the tournament.

Many fans of CAA basketball also complained about how VCU's vicinity to the "neutral site" gave them an unfair advantage over every other team in the tournament, due to the Rams essentially playing home games to try and win the CAA's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

However, VCU is gone now, leaving for the A-10 about a month ago, which means that the Richmond Coliseum would finally be the neutral site it has been touted as for years.

But now, only after VCU has left, the CAA is looking into moving the tournament.

My question becomes, why now?

Just two years ago, the CAA signed an extension with the Richmond Coliseum through 2014. This past February, Tom Yeager claimed that the CAA was very happy with keeping the tournament in the Richmond Coliseum.

The biggest bugaboo about the Coliseum, that it was two miles from one of the CAA's best teams, is gone now. It is a perfectly neutral site located in the same city as CAA headquarters and generates tons of revenue for the city of Richmond.

Tom Yeager even said himself that the positives of keeping the tournament in Richmond for all of these years was "more than just the Coliseum," citing the nearby Richmond Convocation Center and the upgraded hotels in Richmond.

Why does VCU leaving have any bearing on where we hold the tournament? I thought that the site was neutral anyway?

But now that VCU has left, the CAA is considering moving the tournament, and two of the sites that have come up in conversation have been The Palestra in Philadelphia and Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

First of all, the fact that The Palestra has come up as a potential site boggles my mind.

As I've stated, for years, the argument with the Richmond Coliseum was that it was too close to VCU, not making it a neutral site. The Palestra is located less than a mile away from Drexel University, one of the major players in the new-look CAA and the runner up in last year's CAA Tournament.

This is like having a hole in the bottom of a bucket, plugging up that hole, and then drilling a new one into the side of the bucket. It makes no sense!

If the tournament moves to The Palestra, the CAA will open themselves up to the same criticism that they've taken for years, only you would replace "VCU" with "Drexel."

As for Boardwalk Hall, don't get me wrong, as a Jersey boy, I love me some Atlantic City, but in terms of playing the CAA tournament there, it just doesn't make any sense.

The CAA has always been a Virginia based league, and even with the current departures, Virginia still boasts the most CAA teams of any state. Add in that CAA headquarters are in Richmond and you can see why Richmond is a much more logical location than Atlantic City for the CAA Tournament.

I understand that the CAA is worried about attendance due to ODU and VCU, two of the tournament's biggest draws, leaving, but instead of trying to up and move from Richmond, which has finally become a neutral site, can't we work on creative solutions to get fans to come to the Coliseum?

Make ticket packages, give fans deals, lower prices. At the end of the day, if it is a competitive tournament, people will come to watch it.

Well, that's my rant for the day. If you wanna join in on the conversation or just tear my arguments to shreds, just comment below and let's get this started.