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DURHAM, N.H.-- The University of New Hampshire football program, along with the 11 other Atlantic 10 football programs, will join the Colonial Athletic Association beginning in 2007. The announcement was made today by UNH President Ann Weaver Hart and UNH Athletic Director Marty Scarano.
The Wildcats will remain affiliated with the Atlantic 10 until the existing five-year contract expires in 2007. Delaware, Hofstra, James Madison, Northeastern, Towson and William & Mary will be full members of the CAA, while Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Richmond and Villanova will join as associate members for football only.
This will mark the first time in the 20-year history of the CAA that the conference will carry the sport of football. CAA Commissioner Thomas E. Yeager made the official announcement today at a press conference in Richmond, Va.
"This announcement is exciting because it allows the University of New Hampshire to remain affiliated with our current peers in a very competitive new league," said President Hart. "All of us at UNH have appreciated the leadership provided by the Atlantic 10 over the years and we will continue to support the common efforts of the conference to improve and promote I-AA football."
UNH football is coming off of its best season in the history of the program after posting a 10-3 overall record, earning first-place in the Northern Division of the Atlantic 10 Football Conference and advancing to the quarterfinals of the NCAA I-AA Football Championship Tournament. The Wildcats completed the 2004 season ranked sixth in the nation after posting impressive victories over the likes of defending national champion Delaware, Division I-A Rutgers and I-AA powerhouse Georgia Southern in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
"The football program at UNH has made great strides and improvements as a member of the Atlantic 10 Football Conference and I would like to thank Linda Bruno and her staff at the Atlantic 10 for their support and leadership," said Scarano. "I am looking forward to enjoying a similar relationship with Tom Yeager and his staff at the CAA. The Atlantic 10 had four teams advance to the quarterfinal round or higher in the NCAA I-AA tournament last season, including UNH. I am confident that kind of success for UNH and the other 11 teams can continue as members of the CAA."
"The success of the Atlantic 10 over the past seven years has been phenomenal", said seventh-year head coach Sean McDonnell. "To continue to play the highest level of I-AA football in the country is the goal of the UNH football program. We are looking forward to joining the CAA and keeping all of the Atlantic 10 teams intact, as we continue to play the best competition in I-AA football."
About The Colonial Athletic Association
The Colonial Athletic Association celebrates its 20th Anniversary in 2004-05, proud of its past and excited about the future.
Boasting a roster of 10 (soon to be 12) well-respected academic institutions, the CAA has established itself as one of the nation's top collegiate conferences. On the playing field, the league has produced 16 national team champions in five different sports, 33 individual national champions, 11 national coaches of the year, 11 national players of the year and 12 Honda Award winners. The CAA has consistently ranked among the top 15 in the Sears Directors Cup standings and has been the nation's top-ranked Division I non-football conference in recent years.
Even more impressive, however, are the honors accumulated away from competition, which include five Rhodes Scholars and 16 NCAA post-graduate scholars. Last year, the CAA had eight CoSIDA Academic All-Americans, including five who were selected to the first team. Over 1,400 CAA student-athletes posted at least a 3.2 grade point average while lettering in a varsity sport and received the CAA Commissioner's Academic Award in 2003-04.
With a geographic footprint that currently stretches from the shadow of the Statue of Liberty to the beaches of North Carolina, the landscape of the conference includes four of the nation's top 25 media markets - New York (1), Philadelphia (4), Washington, D.C. (8) and Baltimore (24). That reach will expand even wider in 2005 with the addition of Northeastern University in Boston and Georgia State University in Atlanta, giving the CAA a presence in five of the nation's nine largest metropolitan areas.
The CAA conducts championships in 21 sports. Male athletes compete for championships in baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, lacrosse, soccer, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field and wrestling. Female athletes battle for conference titles in basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming & diving, tennis, track & field and volleyball.
In men's basketball, the CAA has earned a reputation as a "giant killer" in the NCAA Tournament. Since 1981, CAA schools have posted 12 wins over higher-seeded teams. Last year, seven of the league's 10 teams were among the top 140 in the RPI and four were ranked in the top 100. In women's basketball, the CAA ranked ninth among the nation's 31 conferences in 2003-04. Perennial power Old Dominion has captured three national championships (1979, 1980, 1985) and reached the title game again in 1997.
The conference has also excelled in many other sports. CAA squads have won 10 field hockey national titles since the championship began in 1981, which is not only more than any other conference but represents nearly half of all titles won. In baseball, at least two CAA teams have earned NCAA Tournament berths for seven consecutive seasons. The CAA is annually ranked among the nation's top 10 conferences in men's and women's soccer, and has traditionally sent multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament. The conference finished the 2003-04 campaign with teams ranked among the top 25 nationally in cross country, field hockey, men's soccer, wrestling, softball, men's and women's tennis and men's and women's lacrosse.
CAA member institutions are also committed to excellence in the classroom. The Colonial Academic Alliance was created in 2002 by the league's presidents with a goal of expanding their partnership to all aspects of university life outside of intercollegiate athletics. Among the programs already established are an undergraduate research conference, coordination of study abroad programs and granting visiting academic status to student-athletes traveling to an away contest so that they have access to libraries, academic resource centers and computer labs.
In 2002, two faculty members from CAA institutions were awarded academia's most coveted distinction - the Nobel Prize. John B. Fenn, a research professor in the Department of Chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University, received the Nobel Prize for chemistry, and Vernon Smith, a professor of economics and law at George Mason University, shared the Nobel Prize in economic sciences.
Under the direction of Commissioner Thomas E. Yeager, who has guided the CAA since its inception, the league currently includes 10 members and will expand to 12 in 2005. Core members George Mason University, James Madison University, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University and the College of William & Mary were joined by the University of Delaware, Drexel University, Hofstra University and Towson University in 2001. Georgia State University and Northeastern University will become members of the conference in July, 2005.
The CAA traces its roots back to 1983 when three of its current members- George Mason, James Madison, and William and Mary - were aligned with East Carolina University, the United States Naval Academy and the University of Richmond as a basketball league (ECAC South). During the next two years, the league added 11 sports, acquired two new members (UNC Wilmington and American University) and decided to form a new association. The transformation from ECAC South to CAA took place on June 6, 1985. By the fall of 1986, the league gained automatic bids to NCAA Championships in men's basketball, soccer, baseball and women's basketball and formed an officials' bureau. Old Dominion became a member of the CAA in 1991-92 and Virginia Commonwealth University joined the conference prior to the 1995-96 season.
From all-star athletes to Nobel Prize winning faculty, the CAA takes great pride in producing performers who stand out both on the playing field and in the classroom.