What’s in a name? CAA sheds “Colonial” title

Managing Sports Editor

The University of Delaware’s Division I athletic conference has dramatically changed in membership since the Fightin’ Blue Hens joined the league in 2001. On Thursday, its name changed as well. The Colonial Athletic Association, known as the CAA and CAA Football for its football conference, announced its new moniker: the Coastal Athletic Association.

The new name allows the conference to continue operating with its primary first reference in common parlance being “the CAA.”

The CAA traces its origins to the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference South basketball league of the early 1980s. ECAC South expanded in members and sport sponsorship before becoming the CAA on June 6, 1985.

Delaware’s entry into the conference occurred alongside present-day rivals Drexel University, Hofstra University, and Towson University.

Daniel Steenkamer/THE REVIEW

In 2021-22, the CAA destabilized in the wake of James Madison University’s (JMU’s) departure for the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Sun Belt Conference effective July 1, 2022. JMU, the 2016 Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) champion, had grown into its status as an FCS power and the most nationally renowned CAA Football playoff regular.

The CAA responded to the loss of its flagship member by welcoming Monmouth University and Hampton University in advance of the 2022-23 campaign. North Carolina A&T State University also joined at that time in sports other than football, with the Aggies’ football team arriving this fall. On July 1 of this year, Campbell University formally entered the CAA, CAA Football included.

The CAA, headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, was once Virginia-centric, sporting Virginia Commonwealth University, Old Dominion University, and George Mason University as perennial basketball contenders paired with JMU. 

The league’s footprint has continued to span much of the Atlantic coast, but the exits of the aforementioned Virginia schools left the College of William & Mary as the CAA’s lone Virginia resident among full members before Hampton’s arrival.

Shifting from its Virginia hub over decades, the CAA’s moves since the 2001 wave that included the Blue Hens saw Northeastern University (2005), the College of Charleston (2013), Elon University (2014), and Stony Brook University (2022, in sports in addition to football) join the association.

Northeastern in Boston, Charleston in South Carolina, and Stony Brook on Long Island in New York added to the CAA’s portfolio of coastal programs. Monmouth is situated near the New Jersey shore in West Long Branch, while Hampton is located in proximity to the ports in the Norfolk, Virginia area.

“The Conference’s new name represents a culmination of its efforts over the past three years to expand its membership, solidify its geographic footprint, and affirm its long-standing mission through a new vision statement,” CAA commissioner Joe D’Antonio said in the press release unveiling the Coastal Athletic Association.

Courtesy of the Coastal Athletic Association

JMU’s split from the CAA has increased speculation about Delaware’s long-term fit in the conference despite the university’s placement in the approximate middle of the league’s geography. During the schools’ shared time in the CAA, the Dukes were most often compared to the Hens in terms of support and financial resources, especially those devoted to furthering football.

So long as Delaware remains in the CAA, it will be playing under the new Coastal banner, slight as the tweak may be given the CAA’s choice to maintain its existing primary logo.

The CAA’s first event as the Coastal Athletic Association will be the football conference’s media day held remotely on Tuesday, July 25.

What’s in a name? CAA sheds “Colonial” title was first posted on July 21, 2023 at 8:13 am.
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