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College football: Great Danes start preparing for CAA

A new stadium comes with move to a new conference

The University at Albany football team held its first practice for the 2013 season Monday in the shadow of Bob Ford Field. The Great Danes inaugurate their new home Saturday, Sept. 14 against Rhode Island.

The University at Albany football team held its first practice for the 2013 season Monday in the shadow of Bob Ford Field. The Great Danes inaugurate their new home Saturday, Sept. 14 against Rhode Island. Photo by Rob Jonas.

— A new era in University at Albany football history began with Monday’s first practice.

Working out in the shadow of their new stadium, the Great Danes began preparations for their first season in the Colonial Athletic Association, one of the most competitive leagues at the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision level.

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“It was a great day of practice,” said coach Bob Ford, who begins his 43rd season at the helm of the program he created. “The guys believe they can win which is a good place to start.”

“Obviously, it’s a step up all around,” added quarterback Will Fiacchi, who is back to run the offense. “You’re going to see bigger and faster players on both sides of the ball.”

The Great Danes had been one of the best teams in the Northeast Conference, as they won or shared six league titles from 2002 to 2012. But now, they must find a way to carry on their winning tradition in a league that has produced two national champions and three finalists since 2006.

“There are three ways to win in college football,” said Ford, who owns a 255-159 career record. “You can out-recruit your opponents. That’s what we did in the NEC, but we’re not going to out-recruit most teams in the CAA. The second way to win is to out-coach your opponent. And the third thing you can do is out-develop your players. Those are things we’ve got to do.”

Ford said the biggest disadvantage the Great Danes face is a lack of depth on the roster.

“Everybody in the NEC had 35 to 38 scholarships, but everybody in the CAA has 63 scholarships,” said Ford. “So, we’re at a disadvantage because we don’t have nearly as many scholarship players as the rest of the CAA has. If we’re going to be competitive, we’re going to have to stay as healthy as we can.”

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