I interrupt your regularly scheduled basketball programming for a brief football moment:
Spider fans will remember the Patriot League as that place dear ol’ President Cooper wanted to move the football team to back in 2005 (or was it Fall of 2004?). The move was ridiculed and ultimately (and thankfully) avoided. (Cut to Eric Ward celebrating national title.) It was a clear downgrade and surrender at the time, one the proud Spider program wasn’t willing to make.
Now? Things have changed.
The PL will be on equal footing competitively with the CAA. Plus, more than the CAA and even more than the A10, the Patriot League is comprised of schools the most similar to UR: Georgetown (FB only), Holy Cross, Lehigh, Bucknell, Lafayette, et al. They are small, private, prestigious academic institutions in the northeast. Don’t confuse this with me advocating for a switch, it’s just true.
First, congratulations to the Patriot League schools. This approval has been a long time coming. Scholarships will help all of them become more competitive for top talent and improve the profile of the league from a competition standpoint. UR just got another handful of recruiting rivals.
But wait, there’s more.
I still don’t think the conference shuffle is done. CUSA and the Mountain West are merging. The Big East is still teetering (Memphis or no). UR needs to keep its head on the swivel a bit longer.
What the PL move does for Richmond is provides another option. UR’s future goals are different from JMU’s, Delaware’s or even ODU’s. CAAFB has already lost URI and UMass. ODU is in and Georgia State is coming. The league is changing, and in a way that may eventually become untenable for the Spiders. The league is expanding geographically and financially (in terms of investment required). The new schools are big and ambitious. UR is ambitious, yes, but also must deal with the reality of its size limitations. Again, football is driving all of this movement and UR is a hoops first school.
The PL is now a much more palatable alternative to CAAFB for Spider football fans if a change needs to be made. Richmond could keep full scholarships, maintain a high level of play, keep access to the FCS tournament and do so in a more compact league footprint with more like-minded schools. (And yes, W&M would also fit in with the PL for those worried about the rivalry. In fact, UR and W&M would make an easy expansion pair for football, but that’s getting WAY ahead of ourselves.)
This rumination may well all be for nothing. Conferences may settle down and future shifts may be more tweaks than re-imaginings. The PL’s upgrade may mean nothing more than a few more good OOC scheduling options. Or more major upheaval may only be another year or two away. If that’s the case, and the face of the CAAFB (or even Atlantic 10) were to dramatically change, it’s nice to know that UR has another palatable option for football, another potential card on the table. Contingencies are good.
In the meantime, good luck to Coach Rocco and staff recruiting next year. Things just got a little more complicated.
And now back to talking myself into a Spider win at SLU tomorrow….