KINGSTON, R.I. — The University of Rhode Island will remain a football member of Colonial Athletic Association, Rhode Island Athletic Director Thorr Bjorn announced Tuesday.
The Rams were extended an invitation to stay in the league by CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager, according to a press release from the league.
The school had planned to become a football member of the Northeast Conference after this season.
“We are very appreciative of the CAA, Commissioner Yeager and all the football-playing member institutions for the re-invitation to stay in the league. They have made it clear that the University of Rhode Island is a very important and longstanding member of their association,” Bjorn said.
The CAA also includes Maine, Delaware, Georgia State, James Madison, New Hampshire, Old Dominion, Richmond, Towson, Villanova and William & Mary. Old Dominion and Georgia State are leaving to pursue Football Bowl Subdivision opportunities next season, but Albany and Stony Brook have been added to the CAA for 2013.
URI officials had indicated the school might reconsider its departure given the influx of Albany and Stony Brook to the CAA, which competes in the Football Championship Subdivision.
The return of URI gives the CAA five teams in the Northeast, including three in New England. In addition to some long-established gridiron rivalries, it would seem to clear the way for a North-South divisional system that also would help alleviate some travel concerns for UMaine and UNH.
“All the institutions in the conference are thrilled that Rhode Island has accepted our invitation to remain in the conference,” Yeager said. “As a charter member dating back to 1946, URI is a valued member and an important rival for many of our schools. We are very excited that the addition of new members Albany and Stony Brook will quickly establish even more rivalries for our five Northeast institutions, strengthening all the programs.”
UMaine head coach Jack Cosgrove was pleased to hear the news, given the ramifications for his program and others in the region.
“It certainly speaks to the possibility — if we can add one more team, because we’re sitting at 11 now — of creating a North and South again,” Cosgrove said Tuesday on “Downtown” with Rich Kimball.
“[We would] play five [CAA games] in the north, three in the south, like we had before and really kind of alternate those southern games a little bit on a bi-annual basis,” he added.
It also helps alleviate travel costs for the Black Bears, who will have one fewer charter plane trip every other year.
“There’s going to be more bus trips for us, which ultimately allows us to have more money for other things like recruiting,” he said.
On Nov. 22, 2010, Rhode Island had announced its intention to become an associate member of the Northeast Conference in the sport of football, beginning with the 2013 season. URI’s decision to leave the CAA came after geographic neighbors Northeastern (Boston) and Hofstra (N.Y.) dropped football altogether.
“I would like to thank Northeast Conference Commissioner Noreen Morris as well as all of the presidents and athletic directors from the NEC for the original invitation to join the league as an associate member for football,” Bjorn added. “We made the original decision to accept the NEC invitation to ensure the sustainability of URI football, which could have been compromised for geographical reasons.
“As has been the case in college athletics over the past number of years with conference realignment, institutions have made numerous choices to align and adjust to a changing landscape,” Bjorn explained. “The recent changes in CAA football membership — the addition of Stony Brook and Albany and loss of southern schools Old Dominion and Georgia State — we felt that it makes the most sense for URI to remain in the CAA.”
URI is a charter member of CAA Football. The league was formed on Dec. 3, 1946 as the Yankee Conference with five other New England-based land grant colleges. The Atlantic 10 gained control of the league from 1997-2006 before the league became CAA Football, beginning with the 2007 season.