There already is a simmering Long Island men’s basketball rivalry between Stony Brook and Hofstra. Prepare for the heat to get turned up.
Stony Brook is involved in conversations and negotiations to leave the America East Conference and join the Colonial Athletic Association, where Hofstra competes. An announcement could come as soon as next week. The transition to the CAA could start as soon as the next school year.
"We have been in discussions with the CAA," Stony Brook athletic director Shawn Heilbron said in a text message.
Stony Brook’s football program already competes in the formidable CAA as part of the Football Champion Subdivision, where several teams annually make the NCAA playoffs. However, its other teams compete in the America East.
According to published reports, Stony Brook is only one piece of the puzzle. The CAA also is looking to bring on Monmouth from the Metro Atlantic and Hampton from the Big South.
The move would be geared largely toward men’s basketball. Other schools could be in play, among them Albany of the America East and Iona of the Metro Atlantic. To add coach Rick Pitino’s Gaels would be considered an impressive addition.
The America East and the Colonial have rarely gotten more than its conference champion into the lucrative NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
In 2006 the George Mason team that made the run to the Final Four was an at-large bid after it lost to Hofstra in the CAA semifinal. UNC Wilmington won the final and got the automatic bid.
The CAA appears to be making a bid to become more of a multi-bid conference; its television broadcast rights could be considerably more valuable if it is viewed as more than a one-bid conference.
It does not appear Hofstra has voiced resistance to the addition of another Long Island school. CAA commissioner Joe D’Antonio told Newsday on Wednesday night "Hofstra has been very supportive of plans for conference expansion."
Hofstra athletic director Rick Cole Jr. said, "We have a deep commitment to our conference and we are enthusiastic about anything that is in its best interests."
The CAA has a contract to hold its men’s basketball tournament in Washington for the next two seasons. With the addition of New York area schools, the conference could be eyeing a New York venue for its premier event, including the new UBS Arena, where the Islanders play and where St. John’s already has played a men’s basketball game.
The Colonial’s move is not yet complete, although an announcement may be forthcoming. The addition of other schools with the potential for a high profile — Pitino’s Gaels play games at Madison Square Garden — could loom as very attractive.
Should Hampton be a part of the expansion, it would have to commit considerable resources to upgrading it football program. The Pirates last played in an NCAA football tournament in 2006.