The Colonial Athletic Association is on track to begin its spring football season as planned, league commissioner Joe D’Antonio told the Daily News-Record late Tuesday.
Some CAA programs are slated to play non-conference games as soon as Feb. 20 and the rest are scheduled to start campaigns when conference action begins in early March. James Madison is set to hold its first practice on Jan. 22 in preparation for the abbreviated season.
“At the present time, we’re proceeding forward,” D’Antonio said.
The CAA opted to postpone its traditional fall football season to the spring due to coronavirus concerns.
He said the league since has developed protocols he’s confident in after working with medical professionals and athletic directors across the conference.
“We’ve done really two things of big magnitude,” he said. “We’ve put in a set of policies relative to health and safety that we feel as though provide us with an avenue to play football in the spring. That’s number one, and then using those health and safety policies we put in place we also created an amended regular-season schedule that we feel as though gives us the best opportunity for each of our teams to be able to play six conference games in the spring.”
In September when the CAA announced its plans to hold a spring season, it decided one way to make it safer for coaches and players was to split the league into two divisions – north and south – in order to eliminate longer travel. The CAA’s north division features Albany, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Stony Brook and Villanova while the south fields Elon, JMU, Richmond and William & Mary. In October, Towson opted out of the spring season.
Around the FCS there are seven other teams like Towson that have opted out of the spring and decided against playing entirely during this 2020-21 academic year. But D’Antonio said the 11 CAA programs that committed in the fall to participating in the spring are all still on board.
“I continue to remain optimistic that we’ll be able to implement the policy and procedures we put in place,” he said. “And I know that’s the goal folks are working toward.”
According to D’Antonio, the CAA has adopted as policy the NCAA’s recommended COVID-19 testing protocols for the FCS spring campaign. He said players and coaches in the CAA will either take three antigen tests or one PCR test for the virus per week during the season.
Elon and JMU will be the first league members to play when the Phoenix host Davidson and the Dukes welcome Morehead State to Bridgeforth Stadium in non-league games on Feb. 20. Elon, JMU and Rhode Island will play non-conference games on Feb. 27.
The first time CAA teams meet will be March 5 when Albany travels to New Hampshire. In CAA play, the schools in the north division will play each other once and the schools in the south division will face each other twice.
Tiebreakers for division winners and the conference’s automatic qualifying bid into the FCS playoffs have been determined, too. The teams with the best conference record based on win-loss percentage win divisions and the team with the best mark based on win-loss percentage takes the automatic bid into the postseason. Other tiebreakers, per the CAA’s website, include head-to-head competition and win-loss percentage against the highest-placed common opponent.