After 2 football teams disband, CAA huddles to plan future

Posted Dec. 28, 2009, at 9:35 p.m.

Blake James of the University of Maine was among four Colonial Athletic Association football athletic directors who met last week to discuss the recent shakeup in the league.

CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager gathered Dec. 21 at a Boston hotel with James, New Hampshire athletic director Marty Scarano, Massachusetts AD John McCutcheon and Rhode Island AD Thorr Bjorn.

The purpose of the meeting was to allay any fears the athletic directors may have had in the wake of two Northeast CAA programs, Northeastern and Hofstra, eliminating their football programs last fall.

“It was just a good opportunity to catch up, just talk about scheduling, the challenges that some of us face,” James said.

The CAA’s four New England football teams were left a bit isolated from their conference counterparts after the unexpected departure of two teams that had been playing football for more than 70 years.

Those changes create some additional scheduling and travel challenges for UMaine, UNH, UMass and URI, the remaining four teams from what was the CAA North Division. Each of those schools has lost two league opponents that were within driving distance, which will drive up the future cost of their programs by having to fly to two more road games.

“Obviously, there’s been a change in the Northern Division and next year we’re not going to have divisions at all,” James said. “I think it was just good to bring everyone together and say OK, hey, we’re going forward as a group with CAA football and we look forward to the 2010 season.”

James said no policy or scheduling decisions were made at the meeting, but Yeager reassured the New England schools will remain viable CAA members and will continue to play eight league games.

UMaine is committed to staying in the CAA, in spite of its more Mid-Atlantic geographic flavor, because of all it offers.

“It’s great to have a conference that has the strength that we do, that when you do lose two members, it doesn’t impact the membership in that we’re still going to have four conference home games here and we’re still going to have four conference road games,” James said.

“We’re committed to positioning our program to be successful and hopefully winning a CAA championship and, ultimately, a national championship. I can’t think of anything better for our program.”

UMaine women back on the road

Coming off a four-day Christmas break, the UMaine women’s basketball team is back on the road this week.

Coach Cindy Blodgett’s Black Bears (2-7) take on Texas-San Antonio and Stephen F. Austin in the UTSA New Year’s Classic, staring with today’s 8 p.m. contest against the host Roadrunners.

UMaine hopes to continue improving coming off its lopsided loss to eighth-ranked Duke on Dec. 21.

“I thought we played very hard,” Blodgett said. “Our players didn’t back down in any way.”

The Bears returned to Orono for practices Saturday and Sunday, before arriving in Texas early Monday morning (12:35 a.m. EST).

Tonight, UMaine encounters an athletic UTSA squad that will challenge the Bears’ quickness and depth.

“They’re and athletic team, also a young team,” Blodgett said. “They have a lot of one-on-one players, so we’re going to rely very heavily on our matchup [zone].

“Our guards have to do a really good job of not allowing penetration, which often gets our bigs [post players] into foul trouble,” she added.”

Ross nears return to practice

Tanna Ross of Newburgh should be able to begin practicing again soon, according to Blodgett.

The junior guard/forward, who suffered a broken left foot during the preseason, has been unable to play or practice ever since.

Blodgett said the hope is to slowly work Ross back into the practice regimen as soon as she is able.

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