Towson's CAA move now set for this summer

Conferences expedite transfer of four schools


April 05, 2001|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Once scheduled for a couple of years in the future, Towson's move to the Colonial Athletic Association will come this summer.

The America East conference accepted the resignation of Towson last weekend, freeing the university's athletic program to move to the CAA after June 30, along with fellow America East schools Delaware, Drexel and Hofstra. Both conferences announced the news yesterday.

Under an agreement hammered out between CAA commissioner Tom Yeager and America East commissioner Chris Monasch, the departing schools will have associate memberships in America East for fall sports (men's and women's soccer, field hockey and volleyball) before moving to the CAA for the winter, two years earlier than expected and without penalty.

"We are thrilled to be able to expedite the process and incorporate these schools sooner than originally announced," said Yeager, whose league will receive a $150,000 initiation fee from each of the four schools.

Wayne Edwards, Towson's athletic director, said the CAA would make the initiation fee as painless as possible. Yeager said it's likely some of the money would simply come out of the schools' shares of NCAA tournament money.

"It's been done in such a way that it's not a burden," Edwards said. "They wanted us in and we wanted in."

Three schools -- American, East Carolina and Richmond -- will leave the CAA this year (American is joining the Patriot League, East Carolina is going to Conference USA and Richmond will become a member of the Atlantic 10), meaning the conference will have 10 athletic programs next year, including those of George Mason, James Madison, Old Dominion, UNC-Wilmington, Virginia Commonwealth and William and Mary.

When American, East Carolina and Richmond announced their intentions to move last year, they initiated a flurry of activity from both the CAA and America East. First came the idea of a merger between the two leagues to form a 15-team conference. That proposal didn't get enough votes to pass at an early fall meeting.

The CAA and four of the America East schools then began a mutual courtship that ended in early December when the league announced it was adding Delaware, Drexel, Hofstra and Towson for the 2003-04 season.

Originally, if those schools had left any earlier, they would have been charged a penalty of $250,000 each, in accordance with America East rules. But by January, Albany and Stony Brook were members of the America East, and Towson's departure date was moved up a year.

With SUNY-Binghamton as another possible addition to America East -- and with the league's men's basketball coaches antsy about the possibility of seeing Hofstra and Delaware win every year -- the six current and remaining schools began working in February to allow the departing programs to leave a year sooner.

"The need for a transition period allowed the conference to study its options," Monasch said. With the new schools, "it is in the best interests of all parties involved to move on."

As recently as last Monday, it seemed as if a plan to release the four new CAA schools would have to wait. A vote on it was tabled until next month, but "by that time, we can't put a schedule together," Edwards said.

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