Monmouth leaving the MAAC after Tournament in Atlantic City, NJ
With the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference just several weeks away from their return to Atlantic City for the Men's and Women's Basketball Tournaments, the future of the MAAC at Boardwalk Hall officially got another curveball.
On Tuesday, Monmouth University announced they are departing the MAAC after the 2021-22 Academic Year and will be officially joining the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) for the start of the 2022-23 year. This is just the latest in a series of moves involving different schools as different Athletic Conferences are "keeping up" with each other in a world of Conference Realignment. Back in November, James Madison University made the controversial decision to leave the CAA and go to the Sun Belt Conference. This is a major step up in competition for JMU to join the Sun Belt but this left the Athletic Conference that their school was one of the founding members of back in 1979.
For Monmouth University, this is an opportunity to bring all their Intercollegiate Athletics into one conference. Since 2013, Monmouth University has played their Men's and Women's Basketball with the MAAC but their Football has been members of the Big South Conference. Now Monmouth can bring Football, Basketball, and their 21 sports under one conference umbrella. The Monmouth Football team won the Big South Conference Championship three times and joining the CAA is a win-win for both the University along with their new conference.
Monmouth University President Patrick Leahy said in a statement on Tuesday:
"Today is a great day for Monmouth University - The invitation to join the Colonial Athletic Association has presented our University with an opportunity to compete alongside some of the finest institutions in the nation. Those strong academic associations, coupled with the on-field national recognition of the CAA teams, will enhance the Monmouth brand and increase our exposure at the regional and national levels. I am very excited to give our student-athletes and coaching staff the opportunity to elevate our programs to a new level."
The other side of this story is the loss for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference not just one of their member institutions, but one of the Universities that is closest in proximity to Atlantic City. The MAAC is in the final year of their agreement with Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall for their Basketball Tournaments, originally a three-year agreement that suffered the incredible misfortune of having the 2020 Tournament canceled due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Year two of the MAAC Tournament saw the games in March of 2021 played in front of select fans with limited media on site. Now the third year of the MAAC Basketball Tournaments still has the cloud of COVID-19 protocols hanging over it in Atlantic City.
The MAAC Commissioner Richard Ensor said in the Conference's official statement about Monmouth University leaving for the CAA for the 2022-23 academic year:
“The MAAC membership wishes the student-athletes and coaches of Monmouth University the best of luck as the school transitions to a new conference and as the school’s teams complete their MAAC competition this winter and spring - In the midst of conference re-alignment all around us, we are confident of the strength of the MAAC conference schools and their continued commitment to competition in the core sports of our student-athletes.”
MAAC bylaws still allows for Monmouth University to compete in conference tournaments and be eligible for NCAA Tournament bids this season, including the Men's and Women's Basketball Tournaments in Atlantic City this March. With Monmouth leaving for the CAA, the MAAC is down to 10 teams but the Conference has been actively exploring their options for expansion for 12 teams for years, so this decision by Monmouth may or may not accelerate the MAAC's expansion process.
There is speculation and rumors that one of the institutions that the MAAC could target for their expansion includes Fairleigh Dickinson University, which is currently a member of the Northeast Conference (NEC). FDU would give the MAAC another New Jersey based university to replace Monmouth University in the Conference's regional footprint.
The MAAC's Basketball Tournaments' future may still be impacted even in Monmouth University's absence. With the Colonial Athletic Association adding Hampton University and Stony Brook University along with Monmouth, CAA Commissioner Joe D’Antonio says they are considering moving their Basketball Tournaments to New York City in a couple of years after their current run ends in Washington, DC. New York City has long been a destination for Basketball Tournaments with the Big East at Madison Square Garden and the ACC Tournament at Barclay's Center.
Before the MAAC brought their Basketball Tournaments to Atlantic City, the Atlantic 10 used to host their tournaments at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall from 2007 to 2012. The Atlantic 10 will be at Capital One Arena in Washington, DC for their 2022 Basketball Tournament while the CAA Basketball Tournament is at the St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena, also in Washington, DC. Hopefully, after the 2022 Basketball season, Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall will not be an empty arena without a Basketball Tournament for 2023.