The Colonial Athletic Association has a new look in 2022, losing traditional powerhouse James Madison but gaining two new members, Hampton and Monmouth.

North Carolina A&T is set to join the conference next season, bringing the CAA’s football membership to 14 and making it the largest league playing at the Football Championship Subdivision level.

Jordan Stevens, the University of Maine’s first-year head coach, is pleased with the direction the CAA is heading.

“It shows we’re willing to progress. We’re willing to advance as a conference. It’s exciting to be a part of a conference that’s willing to do that. Being able to change with the times of college football is important, whether you’re recruiting or how the conference is structured,” said Stevens during Thursday’s CAA preseason virtual media day.

The Black Bears open preseason practices on Aug. 4, with the season-opening game at New Mexico Sept. 3. Maine’s home opener is a non-conference game against Colgate on Sept. 10. The Black Bears open CAA play on Oct. 1 at home against Villanova.

Maine was picked eighth in the CAA’s preseason poll. Villanova, which tied James Madison for the conference crown last season, was first with 16 first-place votes, with Delaware second and Rhode Island third.  Stevens said the poll isn’t on the mind of either him or his players.


“It’s not really our focus at this point. Our focus is on the start of camp next week and getting better fundamentally, getting better from a physical standpoint. We feel like, if we take care of what we can control, things will fall where they need to this season,” Stevens said.

Maine went 6-5 last season, 4-4 in conference play and were strongest in the second half of the season, winning five of their final six games.

“It brings an energy to the team knowing that when we put it together, we can get wins, stack wins together,” said Joe Fagnano, Maine’s returning starting quarterback who missed time last season with an ankle injury.

Black Bear offensive lineman Michael Gerace was named to the league’s preseason all-conference team. Running back Freddie Brock and tight end Shawn Bowman were honorable mention selections. A second-team all-CAA selection last season and team captain, Gerace has made 34 consecutive starts for the Black Bears. Brock ran for 720 yards and seven touchdowns last season, and also had three touchdown receptions. Bowman had 24 catches for 284 yards and four touchdowns in 2021.

James Madison, which either won or tied for the CAA title in five of the last seven seasons and reached the FCS semifinals last season, has joined the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Sun Belt Conference. Still, with many of the league’s teams ranked in preseason top 25 FCS polls, competing in the CAA will still be a challenge.

“The league is so tough, week in and week out, year in and year out. Losing someone like (JMU) might open up for some other teams to potentially make a playoff run, but for us it’s all about how we can get better internally,” said Rick Santos, New Hampshire’s first-year head coach and a former standout quarterback at the school.

CAA Commissioner Joe D’Antonio said continued expansion of the league is something that could be discussed. When North Carolina A&T arrives in 2023 and the football league has 14 members, dividing the conference into two divisions or even playing a conference championship game are things that could be considered, D’Antonio said.

“We’ve gone into this scenario of expansion wanting to keep all options and possibilities on the table as we look to solidify and strengthen our conference moving forward. I wouldn’t put any ideas to the side,” D’Antonio said.

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