The A-10 began sponsoring football in 1997 when it absorbed the Yankee Conference, a Division I-AA (now known as Division I FCS) football-only conference. The move was triggered by a change in NCAA rules that reduced the influence of single-sport conferences over NCAA legislation. The following schools were in the Yankee Conference at the time of its demise:
- Boston University
- James Madison
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
- William & Mary
Boston University dropped football after the first season of A-10 football. After the 1999 season, UConn started a transition from Division I-AA to Division I-A football (now Division I FBS) that was completed in 2002. In 2004, UConn, already a member of the Big East for other sports, became a football member of that conference. The other schools all remained in the A-10 football conference until its demise after the 2006 season.
The 2005 move of Northeastern University, a football-only member of the A-10, to the Colonial Athletic Association for basketball and Olympic sports began a chain of events that would lead to the demise of the A-10 football conference, at least under the A-10 banner.
At that time, the CAA did not sponsor football, but five of its members in the 2004-05 academic year (Delaware, Hofstra, James Madison, Towson, and William & Mary) were football members of the A-10. The addition of Northeastern gave the CAA six schools with football programs, which under NCAA rules allows a conference to sponsor football. Northeastern agreed to join any future CAA football conference, which meant that the A-10 football conference would drop to six members once CAA football began operation.
With six football members in place, the CAA decided to start a football conference in 2007. The league then invited Richmond, a member of the CAA from 1983 to 2001, to rejoin for football only, because of UR's long-standing in-state rivalries with William & Mary and James Madison. UR accepted the invitation, taking the A-10 football conference below the NCAA minimum of six. Shortly after this, the A-10 football conference opted to disband, with all of its members becoming charter members of the CAA football conference. For all intents and purposes, the A-10 football conference became the CAA football conference.