America East Commissioner Huchthausen on Realignment Rumors

The America East membership has endured changes throughout, but the most surprising revelation this summer was the potential of losing more members to another conference.

An apparent feud, via e-mails revealed earlier in the month on the Colonial Athletic Association’s expansion plans, show a conference that was exploring adding America East members Albany and Stony Brook in the future.

Commissioner Amy Huchthausen said that with conferences such as the America East and CAA there is a danger in having e-mails such as these be requested by the Freedom of Information Act; an law designed to show openness of government institutions. However the CAA’s position did not surprise her when it comes to realignment.

“It’s inevitable that something like that will happen but there’s context to everything,” Huchthausen said. “Yes, there’s a lot of e-mails that were released as part of that, but I know there’s lots of context to this issue than just a few e-mails and conversations in an e-mail chain.”

“Conferences are doing their diligence and the CAA is no different. Nothing in there was really a surprise to us, but we have our nine schools right now. You can’t go off purely speculation even if it’s in e-mails like that so we feel like we’re in a good position and that’s where we are today.”

The America East, whose nine member institutions share a common public school background, also have to be aware of what could be in their e-mails that could be requested by FOIA. Huchthausen said she is sensitive as to what she puts into e-mail since spending five years at the NCAA national office prior to becoming commissioner.

“Especially after working at the NCAA national office I’m very sensitive to what I put in my e-mail communications for that very reason,” Huchthausen said. “To a certain extent you have to get some business done via e-mail so sometimes there’s no way around it. I think it’s a good reminder, not just for me but for all of our schools, our presidents, our administrators or anyone who’s dealing with any matter whether it’s realignment issues or otherwise to just to be cautious about what you put in e-mails because you never know what’s going to be requested as part of a FOIA request or who else might just release it on their own. It’s a good reminder and a good lesson to everyone to stay mindful of what you’re putting in writing.”

The America East appears content at nine members. UMass-Lowell, a school transitioning into Division I, joined the conference on July 1 to replace Boston University who departs for the Patriot League. The RiverHawks begin a four-year transition into Division I where they will be ineligible for championships until the 2017-18 season. Huchthausen said that they are currently not looking to add another member to the nine team conference.

“There’s always concern that someone will leave, in this fluid environment that we’ve had for the last few years, there’s very few commissioners in the country who aren’t thinking about that, but at the same time that’s where you really have to focus on the relationships that you have with existing schools,” Huchthausen said. “Make sure that they’re open and transparent, you’re working with them so they are being honest and upfront with you, but at the end of the day a school’s going to decide what they want to decide so no commissioner can control that.”

“I feel like we’re in a good spot right now with our presidents, this branding campaign was their initiative and I’m really proud to see where it’s ended up as a result of that as we look ahead to the future, would it be better just from scheduling purposes to have an even number? of course it would, but the America East has been at nine for several years now and we’ve managed to make it pretty well with an odd number. You don’t want to add someone just to add someone. They really have to be the right fit from a institutional profile prospective and that’s why we’re at nine right now and until other opportunities might present themselves I think we’ll probably be here for a while, but you have to be always tracking the landscape and thinking ahead as best you can.”

Ryan Restivo covers Stony Brook and the America East for Big Apple Buckets. E-mail him at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo.

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