Albany Rival Splitting From America East Conference
On Saturday, the UAlbany Great Danes battled the Stony Brook Seawolves for the 84th time in men's basketball. That number, or close to it, is duplicated across most sports in each respective athletic department. In my 23 years of employment with the UAlbany athletic department, I traveled to Stony Brook University more than any other campus for athletic events.
When a UAlbany team defeats a Stony Brook team, the entire athletic department is treated to apple cider donuts. When a Stony Brook team wins, their department gets bagels. Now, that is a rivalry! On Tuesday morning, it became apparent that this rivalry will change next year.
Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) commissioner Joey D'Antonio announced that Stony Brook University, Monmouth University and Hampton University will join the CAA as 'full members' next season. Stony Brook and Albany are currently 'associate members' of the CAA for football only. Starting next year, Stony Brook will become a full member and compete against the likes of Charleston, William & Mary, Delaware and Long Island rival Hofstra, instead of NJIT, Maine and the rest of America East.
Why would Stony Brook leave? Well, since joining the America East in 1999-2000, following the departure of Northeastern, Towson, Delaware and Hofstra, the conference has failed to maintain members and the competition level has decreased. Boston University left for the Patriot League. Hartford is transitioning from Division I to Division III athletics.
Half of the America East basketball programs draw less than a thousand people per game and it wasn't much better for those same institutions without a pandemic. I can tell you for certain, those were some major bones of contention for Stony Brook Athletic Director Shawn Heilbron. It may be for others in the America East as well.
This departure will not sit well with the athletic departments in the America East, especially in Albany and Binghamton, Stony Brook's SUNY brethren. However, this isn't an easy jump for any institution. There are some big increases in travel budgets and other competitive expenditures that have to be made in order to make such a move. These are significant institutional commitments. However, if your conference no longer supports your institutional endeavors, then you have to invest in your programs. Stony Brook University did that. The next year will be interesting in the America East.