ORONO, Maine — University of Maine football coach Jack Cosgrove quipped that it was getting “a little bit lonely” up in the north during football season in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division 1-AA).
But Cosgrove and University of New Hampshire football coach Sean McDonnell both expressed their pleasure with the addition of New York schools Stony Brook and Albany to the Colonial Athletic Association. They start league play beginning this fall, while the University of Rhode Island subsequently decided to remain in the conference.
URI had originally decided to leave the conference and accept an offer to play in the Northeast Conference for geographic and financial reasons, but when Old Dominion (Va.) and Georgia State left the conference and were replaced by Stony Brook and Albany, URI accepted an offer from the CAA to remain in the league.
“I think it’s great for football in the northeast to have a regional group of teams,” said Cosgrove. “It’s beneficial to Maine and New Hampshire to have regional teams to keep that competition among schools in the northeast going.
“And make no mistake about it, the [financial] difference between flights and bus rides is always substantial,” added Cosgrove.
He said Stony Brook and Albany are quality additions and it’s nice to have Rhode Island stay because it is an old rival from the Yankee Conference days.
The Yankee Conference, established in 1946, consisted of the six New England state schools: charter members Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut, then Vermont (1950) and Massachusetts (1958).
Vermont discontinued football in 1974, UConn left and became a full-fledged Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) program in 2002 and UMass departed to become a FBS team last fall.
Former league teams Boston University, Hofstra (N.Y.) and Northeastern dropped their football programs. Boston University pulled the plug on football after the 1997 season while Hofstra and Northeastern ended their programs after the 2009 campaign.
The other teams in the CAA are Villanova (Pa.), Delaware, Towson (Md.) and Virginia schools James Madison, Richmond and William & Mary.
“It’s a great situation for football in the northeast,” said McDonnell. “The biggest thing is we will have some natural rivals close by and the [media] coverage we will receive will be beneficial to our recruiting.”
Cosgrove said having stability in his coaching staff and at the quarterback position will be important this season as the Black Bears prepare for Saturday’s opener at Norfolk State.
“Entering last season, we had lost five full-time coaches,” pointed out Cosgrove, who has retained most of his coaching staff. “We went through a ton of changes. The game-day experience, preparation and how things are done up here were new to those [new coaches].
“Now it’s completely different. [The] coaches have worked with me and know how to go about things. It is much more comfortable,” added Cosgrove.
Marcus Wasilewski, in his first season as a starter last fall, completed 206 of 338 passes for 2,364 yards and 21 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.
“Marcus is in a different place now,” said Cosgrove. “We had gone through three years with Warren Smith and Chris Treister battling it out and Marcus had been the third guy in the background. I can’t imagine what was going through his mind when he opened the season at [Boston College] last year.
“The thing that impressed me was how he handled the ups and downs of his first year as a starter. The ups were more prevalent as the year went along,” said Cosgrove. “He had a great understanding of the game at the end of the year, not only the offense. He put up real good numbers and became a far better manager of the game.”
Wasilewski guided the Black Bears to wins in three of their last four games as the Black Bears concluded a 5-6 campaign.
He said Wasilewski continued to develop as one of the team leaders during off-season workouts, spring practice and over the summer.