That huge sigh of relief heard earlier this week in Orono came from University of Maine athletic director Steve Abbott.
When it was announced by Colonial Athletic Association Commissioner Tom Yeager that Stony Brook and Albany were accepted into the league beginning with the 2013 season, Abbott was guaranteed his first good night’s sleep in several weeks.
The football status of the University of Maine had been very much up in the air.
Maine and New Hampshire were going to be the only teams remaining in the northeast in the CAA following this coming season.
Hofstra and Northeastern had already dropped football following the 2009 season and the University of Rhode Island was going to leave for the Northeast Conference after this season.
However, Rhode Island has been asked to reconsider its move by the CAA and, according to a story in the Providence Journal, URI athletic director Thorr Bjorn said he is going to do just that.
URI’s decision to leave was based on financial constraints.
However, now that Stony Brook and Albany will be replacing Old Dominion and Georgia State, that will save the New England schools a nice piece of travel money, especially Rhode Island.
Old Dominion and Georgia State are leaving after this year to move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The CAA could now even become a two-division conference with Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island (if it stays), Stony Brook and Albany in the north and Villanova, Delaware, James Madison, Richmond, Towson and William and Mary in the south.
The CAA could also put Villanova or Delaware in the north.
Each team would then play every team in its division once and play three games against teams in the other division. That would help the travel budget.
Albany and Stony Brook are America East rivals of Maine and New Hampshire and they both made the FCS playoffs last fall as did Maine and New Hampshire.
If Albany and Stony Brook hadn’t joined the CAA, Maine and New Hampshire would have been in a potential financial bind.
The revenue gained from playing FBS teams — usually $300,000 or more per season — has been very important in sustaining football.
But if Maine and New Hampshire were the only New England-New York teams in the conference, the only game on the schedule that was easy on the travel budget would have been the one in which they played each other.
Maine and New Hampshire may have had to consider leaving the conference and hope a conference in the northeast would have accepted them.
It may have been a conference with scholarship limitations.
With limited scholarships, they wouldn’t have been able to schedule profitable games against FBS teams.
It would have been a nightmare for Abbott and UNH athletic director Marty Scarano.
CAA teams can have 63 scholarships, which is the maximum number allowed in the FCS by the NCAA.
Maine has made four NCAA FCS Tournament appearances in the last 11 years and the CAA is the best league in the FCS, with four national champions over the past nine seasons along with three runners-up.
And that trend should continue.