Colonial Athletic Association
The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) is a collegiate athletic conference affiliated with the NCAA's Division I whose full members are located in East Coast states from Massachusetts to South Carolina. Most of its members are public universities, and the conference is headquartered in Richmond. The CAA was historically a Southern conference until the addition of four schools in the Northeast (of five that joined from rival conference America East) after the turn of the 21st century, which added balance to the conference.
The CAA was founded in 1979 as the ECAC South basketball league. It was renamed the Colonial Athletic Association in 1985 when it added championships in other sports (although a number of members maintain ECAC affiliation in some sports). As of 2006, it organizes championships in 21 men's and women's sports. The addition of Northeastern University in 2005 gave the conference the NCAA minimum of six football programs needed to sponsor football. For the 2007 football season, all of the Atlantic 10 Conference's football programs joined the CAA football conference, as agreed in May 2005.
The CAA has expanded in recent years, following the exits of longtime members such as the United States Naval Academy, the University of Richmond, East Carolina University, and American University. In 2001, the six-member conference added four additional universities: Towson University, Drexel University, Hofstra University, and the University of Delaware. Four years later the league expanded again when Georgia State University and Northeastern University joined, further enlarging the conference footprint. Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) left for the Atlantic 10 Conference in July 2012. More changes came in 2013: Old Dominion University left for Conference USA, Georgia State joined the Sun Belt Conference, and the College of Charleston joined the CAA from the Southern Conference.
On the playing field, the CAA has produced 16 national team champions in six different sports (the most recent being the James Madison University Dukes who won the 2018 Division I Women's Lacrosse championship), 33 individual national champions, 11 national coaches of the year, 11 national players of the year and 12 Honda Award winners. In 2006, George Mason became the first CAA team to reach the Final Four. In 2011, the VCU Rams became the second CAA team to reach the Final Four, as well as the first team to win five games en route, due to their participation in the First Four round.
On March 25, 2013, George Mason University left the CAA to join the Atlantic 10 Conference. Shortly after, the CAA ceased sponsorship of wrestling due to the lack of teams.
The 2015–16 basketball season saw the conference RPI reach its highest rating when it finished the season ranked 9th in the nation.
‡ – Towson joined the league as a charter member in 1979, left in 1981 to join the ECAC-Metro Conference, and re-joined the CAA in 2001.
Full members Full members (non-football) Assoc. members (football only) Assoc. member (list sports)
The CAA sponsors championship competitions in ten men's and twelve women's NCAA sanctioned sports. Eleven schools are associate members in three sports.
Men's varsity sports not sponsored by the CAA which are played by CAA schools:
Women's varsity sports not sponsored by the CAA which are played by CAA schools:
In addition to the above, Charleston counts its female cheerleaders (though not its male cheerleaders) and all-female dance team as varsity teams. Neither cheerleading nor dance team competitions are sponsored by the NCAA.
The CAA Football Conference was formed in 2005, although it did not begin play until 2007, as a separate conference independent of the CAA, but administered by the CAA front office. For this reason, there are no true "football associate members" as every member of CAA Football is a full-member of the football-only conference. In the 2004–05 academic year, the CAA had five member schools that sponsored football, all of them as football-only members of the Atlantic 10 Conference (A10). In 2005, as previously noted, Northeastern accepted the CAA's offer of membership, giving the CAA the six football-playing members it needed under NCAA rules to organize a football conference. At that time, the CAA announced it would launch its new football conference in 2007. Next, the CAA invited the University of Richmond to become a football-only member effective in 2007. Once UR accepted the offer, this left the A10 football conference with only five members, less than the six required under NCAA rules. As a result, the remaining A10 football programs all decided to join the CAA on a football-only basis, spelling the end of A10 football, at least under that conference's banner. Since the CAA football conference had the same members as the A10 the previous year, it can be said that the CAA football conference is the A10 football conference under new management.
The CAA football conference's earliest roots are in the New England Conference, founded in 1938 by four state-supported universities in that region plus Northeastern; three of the public schools are currently in the CAA football conference. After the departure of Northeastern in 1945, the remaining members joined New England's other land-grant colleges, Massachusetts State College (now the University of Massachusetts) and the University of Vermont, to form the Yankee Conference under a new charter in 1946, with competition starting in 1947. That conference eventually dropped all sports other than football in 1975. Starting in the 1980s, it expanded to include many schools outside its original New England base. After the NCAA voted to limit the influence of single-sport conferences, the Yankee merged with the A10 in 1997. As mentioned above, the A10 football conference effectively became the CAA Football Conference in 2007.
The CAA Football Conference does not claim the legacy of the A10 Football Conference or the Yankee Conference. However, every school that was in the Yankee Conference at the time of the A10 merger and still fields an FCS-level football team (nine out of the final 12 members of the Yankee Conference) is in the CAA football conference. As further proof of the continuity between conferences, the CAA inherited the A10's automatic bid to the FCS playoffs, which in turn was inherited from the Yankee.
On May 31, 2006, Old Dominion University announced that it would start a football team to begin play in 2009. ODU joined the CAA football conference in 2011. On April 17, 2008, Georgia State University announced that it would start a football team to begin play in 2010 and join the CAA football conference in 2012. The team is playing in the 70,000 seat Georgia Dome, but is restricting ticket sales to just over 28,000 for virtually all its games. However, GSU played only the 2012 season in the CAA, and was not eligible for the conference title, as it began an FBS transition in advance of its 2013 move to the Sun Belt Conference.
Since the CAA began play as a football conference in 2007, a member team has played in the FCS Championship game seven times, with Delaware making it in 2007 and 2010, Richmond in winning in 2008, Villanova winning in 2009, Towson appearing in 2013, and James Madison winning in 2016 and appearing in 2017. In 2007, the CAA set records with 15 national player of the week honorees and by sending five teams to the national championship playoffs. The very next season, in 2008, they broke that record with 19 national player of the week honorees and tied their own record by again sending five teams to the national championship playoffs for the second straight year. At the end of the 2008 season, the CAA had six Top 25 teams with four placing in the Top Ten. Players from the CAA received 78 All-America honors.
In the opening weekend of the 2009 season, CAA teams defeated three Division I FBS teams. William & Mary and Richmond took down teams from the ACC (one of the six conferences whose champions receive automatic Bowl Championship Series berths), respectively Virginia and Duke, while Villanova defeated Temple from the MAC. The following weekend saw New Hampshire defeat another MAC team, Ball State (which had gone through the previous regular season unbeaten, but ended 2009 2–10). All four of the CAA teams to defeat FBS teams qualified for the 2009 FCS playoffs and won their first-round games; Villanova and William & Mary reached the semifinals, and Villanova won the FCS championship.
Northeastern—the school whose 2005 move to the CAA enabled the creation of the CAA football conference—dropped football after the 2009 season. President Joseph E. Aoun and the board of trustees endorsed the move after an extensive, two-year review of the athletic program by its director, Peter Roby. The decision to eliminate football followed six straight losing seasons and sparse game attendance at a school whose ice rink often sells out for hockey.
On December 3, 2009, Hofstra announced that the university would no longer be sponsoring football. The decision follows a two-year review of sports spending at Hofstra. School officials stated there are no plans to cut any other sports at the Long Island school. Hofstra cited costs and low student interest—only 500 students would attend home games despite free tickets—as reasons to drop the program. Due to the reduction of the conference, the CAA did not use the division format for the 2010 season. Even though Old Dominion began conference play in 2011 and Georgia State did the same in 2012, the divisional format is not likely to return in the immediate future, as the CAA lost football members in both 2012 and 2013. UMass departed for FBS and the Mid-American Conference in 2012 followed by Georgia State's departure for the Sun Belt and Old Dominion for Conference USA.
The 2010 season started with the biggest non-conference win of the CAA's short history, when James Madison defeated nationally ranked Virginia Tech (FBS #13 at the time) of the ACC. JMU won 21–16 on September 11, at Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium.
Hofstra, Massachusetts, and Northeastern each also played in the CAA's predecessor football conferences. Massachusetts and Northeastern joined the Yankee Conference in 1947 and 1993 respectively, and Hofstra joined the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2001.
^UMass became a football-only member in the MAC in 2013, and an independent football member of FBS beginning with the 2016 season.