"It has been my privilege and honor to represent the outstanding institutions in the CAA for what will be 31 years," said Yeager, who will officially step down on June 30, 2016. "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."
Yeager, who said the CAA will conduct a national search for a new commissioner, helped transformed what was once a Virginia-North Carolina conference into a league with a presence in manymajor 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.
Yeager increased the conference's exposure on television through partnerships with the American Sports Network, NBC Sports Network and Comcast SportsNet. 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.
@CAAFootball posted tributes to Yeager's tenure on Twitter:
#CAAFB has reached new heights under the leadership of Commissioner Tom Yeager.
In addition to four national championships in football by Delaware (2003), James Madison (2004), Richmond (2008) and Villanova (2009), the conference garnered national attention 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.
"We have staged an experience that is memorable for our teams," Yeager said. "These schools have always put the education of their students, who happen to be athletes, in the forefront of their mission."
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.
One of the things Yeager says he will miss the most is "sharing the excitement when you're passing out the trophies."
"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 came to the conference office after nine years on the NCAA staff. 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.
He has been 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 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. 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.
A 1972 graduate of Springfield College in Springfield, Mass., Yeager 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.
— Contributing: Ron Washburn, CAA
Above: Tom Yeager will retire next year after his 31st season as CAA commissioner. (Courtesy CAA)