RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Today the CAA announced the conference’s only commissioner in its short history, Tom Yeager, will retire June 30th, 2016.
Yeager, the longest-tenured commissioner of a Division I conference, took the position in 1985 after being the director of NCAA legislative services.
Under Yeager’s tenure as CAA commissioner he has overseen two Final Four teams in George Mason (2006) and VCU (2011), and multiple FCS national champions: including University of Massachusetts (1998), University of Delaware (2003), James Madison University (2004), University of Richmond (2008), and Villanova (2009).
Tom Yeager will not participate in the search for his successor, one who will oversee a program that currently holds 10 full-time members, two of which are from the state of Virginia: James Madison University and the College of William & Mary. The University of Richmond is a part-time member for football.
The following comes directly from the Colonial Athletic Association:
RICHMOND, Va. (June 11, 2015) – After a 40-year career in collegiate athletics, including more than three decades as the only commissioner in the history of the Colonial Athletic Association, Tom Yeager announced today that he will retire at the conclusion of the 2015-16 season (June 30, 2016).
“It has been my privilege and honor to represent the outstanding institutions in the CAA for what will be 31 years,” said Yeager, who is the longest-tenured commissioner of a NCAA Division I conference. “At the conference’s core is our institutions’ unwavering commitment to conduct their athletic programs as a vital component of their students’ educational experience. I am very proud that this commitment has enabled us to create programs and a competitive environment that has enhanced each student’s experience.”
During an era of unprecedented change in collegiate athletics, Yeager established the CAA as one of the nation’s most successful conferences athletically and academically. He transformed what was once a Virginia/North Carolina conference into a league with a presence in many of the major metropolitan areas on the East Coast. The current CAA footprint, which runs from Boston to Charleston, S.C., encompasses four of the nation’s top nine media markets.
In his tenure, the conference has produced 19 national team champions in five different sports, 33 individual national champions, 16 national coaches of the year and 17 national players of the year. The league also boasts five Rhodes Scholar student-athletes, 24 NCAA post-graduate scholars and 13 Honda Award winners.
The conference garnered national attention with its success in basketball as George Mason (2006) and VCU (2011) advanced to the Men’s Final Four and Old Dominion (1997) reached the Women’s Final Four. National championships have been won in football by Delaware in 2003, James Madison in 2004, Richmond in 2008 and Villanova in 2009.
“It’s a bittersweet day for the CAA,” said Tim Leonard, Director of Athletics at Towson University and President of the CAA. “Tom Yeager built this league and his name is synonymous with the CAA. While we are all very happy for Tom and his retirement, his leadership, vision and passion will be missed. His longevity as commissioner is a testament to the tremendous job he has done. It has been an honor to be in the league and work alongside Commissioner Yeager.”
Yeager has greatly increased the conference’s exposure on television through partnerships with NBC Sports Network, Comcast SportsNet and the American Sports Network. Last year, more than 120 men’s and women’s basketball games, 24 CAA Football games and 10 conference championship games were televised throughout the nation.
The Colonial Academic Alliance was established in 2002 with a goal of expanding partnerships to all aspects of university education and life outside of intercollegiate athletics. It has enabled hundreds of students to showcase their research, facilitated leadership exchanges to promote professional development and developed an academic resource sharing program to support student-athletes.
“Tom Yeager has led our conference as the sole commissioner since its formation in 1985,” said James Madison University President Jonathan Alger. “Under his leadership, many CAA teams have seen great success, including Final Four finishes for our men’s basketball programs, a runner-up finish in the women’s national basketball championship, national FCS championships for our football teams, and national championships in women’s soccer and field hockey. Tom’s steadfast commitment to the development and well-being of our student-athletes is what has formed his true legacy. Thousands of CAA student-athletes have matriculated under his reign and will be forever grateful, as we are, for his deep commitment, dedication and tireless effort to support their development.”
CAA schools have also been very active in community service projects. The CAA Blood Challenge, which is held each fall, has raised over 40,000 units of blood over the past 13 years. The CAA Food Drive Challenge, which is held each spring, has resulted in over 18,000 pounds of donated food and $7,000 in cash contributions in only two years.
Yeager came to the conference office after nine years on the NCAA staff in Kansas City. He joined the NCAA in 1976 as an investigator in the enforcement department. He was promoted to Assistant Director of Legislative Services in 1981 and was named Director of Legislative Services in 1984.
Yeager has been actively involved with NCAA affairs throughout his CAA career. Currently, he is a member of the Committee on Academics, the Football Rules Committee and is a member of the Board of Directors for the NCAA’s College Football Officiating LLC. Yeager is a former chair of one of the NCAA’s most important committees, the Division I Committee on Infractions, which hears and assesses penalties for violations of NCAA rules. Previously he served as a member of the NCAA Council and chaired the NCAA Interpretations Committee for eight years, in addition to serving on numerous other NCAA committees. Well‑respected by other commissioners, Yeager is also a former executive vice president of the Collegiate Commissioners Association and was the chair of the National Letter of Intent Steering Committee.
“As the commissioner of the Colonial Athletic Association, Tom Yeager’s integrity, intelligence, leadership, work ethic, sense of humor, dedication to intercollegiate athletics and the student-athlete experience lead the Colonial Athletic Association through challenging growing pains from its inception to maturity,” said Terry Driscoll, Director of Athletics at the College of William and Mary. “Under his tenure the CAA has experienced national championships, dramatic runs in NCAA championships in multiple sports including two Final Four teams in the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. CAA student-athletes and teams have been widely recognized for their athletic and academic achievements. Tom extended his contribution to the intercollegiate athletics serving on various NCAA committees, most notably a member and chair of the Infractions Committee. He has been involved in and influenced the growth and development of intercollegiate athletics at the conference and national level for the past 31 years, creating a legacy of success and service with class and dignity, earning the respect of his peers. I had the great fortune to work closely with him and be his friend for the past 20 years.”
In April, 1994, the National Invitation Tournament recognized Yeager’s contributions to college basketball by selecting him as the “NIT Man of the Year” joining a prestigious group of past recipients including John Wooden, Bobby Knight and Vic Bubas.
Yeager is a 1972 graduate of Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education and a master’s degree in education (1975). As an undergraduate, he was a member of the gymnastics team; as a graduate student, he was an assistant coach for the squad. After earning his first degree, Yeager worked at the YMCA in Allentown, Pa. He then returned to Springfield as a teaching fellow on the physical education faculty. After receiving his master’s degree, he remained at Springfield as the assistant director of athletics for the 1975‑76 school year prior to joining the NCAA staff. In November 2009, Yeager received Springfield’s Distinguished Alumnus Award.