Membership in the Colonial Athletic Association is the latest upgrade for Stony Brook University's football team. This time, a conference came looking for Stony Brook, which will begin CAA play in 2013.
"We've always been trying to catch up, I think we've finally caught up,'' said former coach Sam Kornhauser, who steered the program through its formative years, from a non-scholarship Division III operation playing on a rock-strewn field, until its arrival in a new stadium and on the verge of becoming a fully funded Football Championship Subdivision entity.
In the early years, Stony Brook football didn't have many suitors. This time, CAA commissioner Tom Yeager wooed Stony Brook, which could have remained in the Big South Conference. Yeager said he contacted Seawolves athletic director Jim Fiore to gauge his interest.
"Jim and I have had casual discussions over the years, we were very well aware of the growth of the program at Stony Brook," Yeager said Wednesday during a conference call detailing the additions of Stony Brook and Albany. "In this go-round I reached out to the university . . . we were very excited they agreed to the visit.''
The CAA has produced four of the last six FCS national champions. Unlike the one-bid Big South, the CAA usually produces multiple bids to the FCS playoffs. "We want to compete for a national championship in football,'' Fiore said.
Stony Brook and Albany will join Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Towson, Villanova, Richmond, William & Mary and James Madison. Current member Rhode Island, which had announced a downgrade to the Northeast Conference after this season, has been asked to remain and Yeager is hopeful it will.
Going for a national title does not seem far fetched after Stony Brook's first appearance in the FCS playoffs culminated with a narrow loss to then top-ranked Sam Houston State last season.
"This is a great step for Stony Brook,'' junior offensive lineman Michael Bamiro said of the CAA. "We're trying to keep our heads focused on winning the Big South first.''
That is the mindset of coach Chuck Priore, but he also is looking forward to the future. "At the end of the day, they want to play against the best competition and have the best opportunity be successful,'' he said of recruits.