I wish I thought this would actually happen.
I wish the Patriot League was proactive, and thinking several steps ahead.
But as an observer of the Patriot League for more than twenty years, I don't think the Patriot League Presidents, or any of their athletic representatives, are nimble enough and proactive enough to actually take a look at what's happening with the CAA right now in regards to James Madison possibly leaving for the Sun Belt.
If they were like me, they'd take a look at the CAA in football in a post-James Madison world. They'd see an extremely unwieldy 11 team conference without much of a theme.
Only four CAA members would be a part of "CAA Football" - Delaware, Towson, William and Mary, and Elon. There would be just as many America East Members as CAA members - UNH, Maine, Stony Brook, and Albany. The other three - Richmond, Villanova and Rhode Island - are in hoops-only conferences.
Could they soldier on as a divisional conference? Maybe. They'd need a football member to do it, possibly Monmouth, and then split into divisions.
But if I were the executive director of the Patriot League, I'd be contacting the Patriot League Presidents with the following proposal:
What if we entered an alliance with the CAA and America East?
What if we scrapped our artificial roster limits, allowed redshirting, allowed the maximum 63 scholarships, and offered a lifeline to the CAA schools?
Scrapping the artificial roster limits and allowing redshirting is the entrance fee to this discussion. It should have been done years ago, and it's the only way this proposal works. So I set up an emergency meeting, and make the case. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I then get on the phone with Joe D'Antonio, the CAA Commissioner, and Amy Huchthausen, commissioner of America East. I explain the situation - how CAA Football's 11 team conference has grown too spread out, and too disparate, and how the Patriot League, through the actions of scrapping roster limits and allowing redshirting, will help.
"Amy," I'd say. "You guys take over management of CAA Football. This happened before: the Atlantic 10 sponsored this very conference before the CAA managed it. This would be the exact same thing, except now your conference will be managing in."
I'd then share the following Wordpad document on the zoom meeting:
America East Football
Patriot League Football
William and Mary
"Amy," I'd continue, "this isn't the same as managing the old CAA, which stretched from North Carolina to Orono, Maine. America East football is a compact league that covers the Northeast and is a bus league - even to Orono. That might be something you'd be interested in, especially with 4 America East members playing football in your original conference under new ownership."
"Joe," I'd say on the same Zoom call, "I know this would be tough, but this will allow the CAA to focus on its core strength, which is basketball. This frees you up to go after some big hoops schools - why not Iona and UNC-Greensboro? Your football schools will be operating completely as they were before - maybe with an academic index, but that should be no problem whatsoever - but most critically with redshirting, full FCS membership, and most importantly, an autobid to the FCS Playoffs and aspirations for National Championships.
"As for the Patriot League," I'd add, "this finally will commit to being full members of good standing in FCS, complete with redshirting and no roster caps in order to field full teams most safely. It maintains several great football Rivalries, and rekindles some others that have been dormant. It also cuts down on travel costs, and maintains the Patriot League in all other sports as-is. It also signals that the Patriot League is going to be what it has actually preached for so many decades - tough uncompromising academics, and national championships. There will be no dropoff in APR when we make this conference, and that matters to everyone here."
"I think this alliance serves everybody here perfectly," I'd conclude. "It takes two sprawled-out conferences with similar commitment to academics and creates two new much more regional-based ones, that develops better rivalries and also cuts down on travel costs. It also keeps both autobids in the Northeast - so there's no transition time. We could do this next season without losing any FCS Playoff access.
"We're all in agreement? Great! Now I need to get all the Patriot League Presidents together to discuss this. I believe I have a spot free for everyone sometime in early 2025. That's for the roster size thing. I think we might be able to get the other tuff done by 2032!"