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CAA Football and the Addition of the Phoenix

May 24, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT

Well, it’s official – this post’s title is a terrible play on my favorite “Harry Potter” novel and, more importantly, the Elon Phoenix are set to join the CAA in 2014-15, as announced yesterday by Commissioner Tom Yeager. After getting back from Elon last night, I was inspired to do a little research on the university and its football program. There’s a lot to learn about our newest member, and I thought I’d share a quick bit of what I found here along with the occasional personal commentary. You can also check out news about the announcement and video from Thursday’s press conference below… after reading the post, of course.


  • Elon went 3-8 in 2012 under second-year head coach Jason Swepson, who is the 20th head coach in program history. Swepson is a ’92 alum of Boston College and has coached both at the collegiate level – including stops at past/present CAA Football members Northeastern and Rhody – and in the NFL prior to taking his first head coaching job at Elon.
  • The Phoenix’s most successful season came in 2009 when the team finished second in the Southern Conference with a 9-2 record en route to earning its first-ever berth in the FCS Playoffs. Elon would fall to 2008 National Champion Richmond in the first round.
  • The Phoenix won back-to-back NAIA National Championships in 1980 and 1981. After its NAIA membership and eight-year stay in Division II, the university became a full Division I member in 1999.
  • Elon is known for its excellence on the field and in the classroom, which makes it a great fit for CAA Football. 32 Phoenix student-athletes, including six football players, were named to last fall’s Academic All-Conference team. Elon was second in the SoCon with 76 all-conference honorees in 2012.
  • All-American wide receiver Aaron Mellette was selected by the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens in the seventh round of this year’s NFL Draft. He was Elon’s first draft selection since 2007.
  • The team’s 23 signees for the 2013 season hail from nine states, ranging from as far north as Rhode Island down to Florida.
  • The program’s picturesque Rhodes Stadium seats 11,250 fans and may strike many CAA Football fans as quite similar to Richmond’s Robins Stadium. Coincidentally, Elon was UR’s first opponent when the Spiders opened their newly-renovated stadium in 2010. I was actually there for that game, a thrilling 27-21 UR overtime win.


  • Elon was founded in 1889 and is located just outside of Burlington in the Piedmont Triad area of Central North Carolina. It is 20 miles from Greensboro and within an hour of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.
  • Approximately 1,850 of the school’s 6,000 current students hail from areas near CAA member schools, and less than 25% of students are in-staters. 5,300 alumni live close to the conference footprint as well.
  • Elon is one of only seven private universities in the nation with accredited schools of law, business, communications and education in addition to boasting a Phi Beta Kappa chapter on campus.
  • U.S. News & World Report named Elon the No. 1 Southern university “with a strong commitment to teaching” and the No. 1 “up-and-coming” university in the South.
  • You may be wondering about the origin of the Phoenix mascot. Elon officially changed its mascot in 2000, selecting the Phoenix – a mythical Arabian desert bird that legend says rose from the ashes to then live another life cycle (not that I need to explain that to you “Harry Potter” fans) – because the university had to essentially rebuild itself after a 1923 fire that nearly destroyed the entire campus.
  • Because one of my alma maters is a botanical garden, I can appreciate that Elon’s quaint, beautiful campus has also been designated as such. I even commented yesterday that the campus not only looks gorgeous, but it smells wonderful as well.
  • Last, but not least, since I have triplet cousins and enjoy Brian Williams: Elon’s first-ever set of triplets will graduate this weekend and will hear the NBC Nightly News anchor deliver the commencement address.