Naturally, college football fans disagree about a lot of things. Disagreement is part of what makes being a college football fan so fun. However, several college football fans are aligned in their stance on one topic, conference realignment. If you ask any fan at any level of college football ravaged by conference realignment, they will tell of the rivalries lost and the loss of regional roots all for the pursuit of the almighty dollar. Perhaps no move was as ugly as USC and UCLA’s move to the Big Ten.
However, in a time when college football loses its regionality by the day, old conference mates are rivals once again due to the same realignment forces.
This Saturday, Monmouth hosts Albany in their first meeting as conference mates since both schools left the Northeast Conference after the 2012 season. The two schools had a home-and-home series in 2017 and 2019, but it was a non-conference series.
Albany-Monmouth was arguably the Northeast Conference’s preeminent rivalry when both schools were conference mates from 1998-2012. The two schools combined for 12 Northeast Conference championships and five ECAC Bowl and Gridiron Classic appearances. Both schools were the class of the NEC in its pre-FCS Playoff invite era. With eight NEC titles to Monmouth’s four and a 12-5 advantage in the series, Albany is arguably the big brother in this rivalry.
As both schools went their separate ways, Monmouth struggled to find a rivalry of similar intensity. Before Robert Morris and Monmouth’s brief cohabitation in the Big South, the closest conference mate that Monmouth had was Campbell, which was over 500 miles away and the Hawks had no prior meetings with any Big South schools before joining in 2013.
Throughout their stay in the Big South, the only thing resembling a rivalry they had was a brief two-game rivalry with Robert Morris, a fellow former NEC school who joined the Big South before the 2021 Spring season. This lasted only one game as the 2021 Spring game was canceled and the schools only met in the Fall of 2021.
Thanks to the CAA’s push for stability after JMU’s departure, Monmouth and Albany are conference mates again and the CAA has a strong New York/New Jersey corridor.
Now, Monmouth fans should be thrilled that the Albany game kicks off a new era for the program. Not only do they get to welcome back an old rival, but they will soon create new rivalries in a conference within their geographical footprint. Series with Villanova, Delaware, and Stony Brook presents the chance for new rivalries for the Hawks in the CAA. Reuniting with Albany this weekend reinforces the competitive and geographical victory moving to the CAA was for Monmouth.