The Missouri Valley Football Conference is considered the best league in the FCS and has the facts to back up that opinion, consider the league has sent five teams to the playoffs the last two years, with last season featuring an all-Valley final. But before NDSU rose to prominence, there was one league that consistently dominated this level of football, the Colonial Athletic Association.
The period of dominance for the league started in 2003 when Delaware (under current Sam Houston coach KC Keeler) won the national title, beating Colgate. James Madison then followed suit, winning the title beating Montana in 2004.
Between 2003-10, the Colonial had a team in the championship game every year outside of one; 2005 when App State beat Northern Iowa. The league won four titles, with four different teams winning (Delaware, James Madison, Richmond and Villanova). If that’s not depth in a league, I’m not sure what is.
They also made deep playoff runs. From 2007-10 the league had two teams in the semis EVERY year. I know what you’re thinking, “Yeah, but how many times did the league have to face each other?” Only once in the semis in 2009, when Villanova beat William and Mary.
The league also flexed its strength against the FBS. In the first week of the 2009 season, three Colonial teams beat FBS teams (William and Mary over Virginia, Richmond beat Duke, Villanova beat Temple). The following week, New Hampshire picked up an FBS win beating Ball State.
The Wildcats have perhaps the most impressive FBS win streak outside of Fargo. UNH won five straight games against the upper division from 2004-09 (Rutgers, Northwestern, Marshall, Army and Ball State).
The CAA has struggled over the past couple of years with the rise of the Valley, but this is now three consecutive years where they’ve had at least one team in the last four. It will bear watching to see where the conference goes from here.