RICHMOND, Va. — Elon is joining the Colonial Athletic Association for the 2014-15 season.
"A big day for Elon," school President Leo M. Lambert said is making the announcement Thursday in Elon, N.C. He called the CAA a "venerable athletic conference" and said the league is "an ideal fit for Elon," particularly since 56 percent of Elon's enrollment hails from within the CAA footprint.
The Phoenix will join as an all-sports member, giving the CAA 10 basketball schools and 12 in football once Elon becomes eligible. Elon is the second school to leave the Southern Conference for the CAA. College of Charleston is joining as an all-sports member next season.
The Southern Conference also recently lost Davidson, one of its strongest basketball programs, to the Atlantic 10.
"It is a very unstable time right now in college athletics," Lambert said, and the CAA's invitation became "a brilliant option for Elon to have the opportunity to evaluate and eventually to accept."
The CAA has been scrambling to add members after losing Georgia State, VCU, George Mason and Old Dominion in the past 13 months.
"We are thrilled that you have accepted our invitation," CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager said at the press conference.
Yeager said when Stony Brook and Albany were added for football last August that he was turning his attention to replenishing the basketball membership.
The league held its conference tournament this season with just seven eligible teams because Old Dominion was disqualified from participating as a departing member and two other teams — N.C. Wilmington and Towson — were ineligible for postseason play because of academic sanctions.
The Southern Conference issued this statement by commissioner John Iamarino.
“In recent years, it became increasingly evident that Elon’s negative view of the diversity in the Southern Conference was not shared by the majority of the membership. Our core group remains firmly committed to each other and to the academic and athletic success of the Southern Conference. We are preparing specific initiatives to achieve that success.”