With Temple’s decision to upgrade to the Big East in the near future, the Atlantic Ten has been hard at work to find a suitable replacement. Butler is considered a guarantee to fill the void left by the Owls, but there have been rumors that further expansion may be on the horizon.
VCU, George Mason and Butler have had discussions with the Atlantic 10 and indicated to the league they have potential interest in joining for the 2013-14 school year, sources told CBSSports.com.
VCU and George Mason are currently in the Colonial Athletic Association and Butler is in the Horizon League. All three schools would need approval from their respective school boards to make the move.
Sources told CBSSports.com that VCU’s Board of Visitors already has had at least two meetings about making the move, while Butler has negotiated with representatives of the Atlantic 10 for the league to assist financially for the Bulldogs to change leagues.
The three schools would help replace schools that are leaving the A-10. Temple is headed to the Big East and sources told CBSSports.com that Charlotte has received an “informal invitation” to the Sun Belt. The 49ers are starting up a football program in 2013 at the FCS level, but couldn’t make a move to the FBS until 2015.
Creighton, of the Missouri Valley Conference, also has been mentioned as a possibility for the Atlantic 10. Father Timothy Lannon, Creighton’s president since 2011, was previously president for eight years at St. Joseph’s, so there’s a political connection between the league and the school. However, Creighton – the only Catholic university in the MVC – is a poor geographical fit, so the Blue Jays might be a long shot.
Duquesne president Charles J. Dougherty mentioned the A-10’s plans for expansion in an email he sent to his board of trustees explaining his decision to fire basketball coach Ron Everhart. The email was obtained by CBSSports.com.
“The A10 conference itself is on the verge of a major improvement with the addition of new high quality university programs,” Dougherty wrote. “All of this amounts to an exciting professional opportunity for a new coach.”
The addition of VCU, George Mason and Butler would be huge for the A-10. The league would be getting three schools that have made a combined four Final Four appearances since 2006. VCU went to the 2011 Final Four and George Mason to the 2006 Final Four.
Butler went to consecutive Final Fours in 2010 and 2011, losing in the title game each season to Duke and UConn, respectively. The Bulldogs are members of the Horizon League in all sports but football. Butler’s football team competes in the FCS level in the Pioneer Football League.
One reason VCU, George Mason and Butler are interested in a move to the Atlantic 10 is that those programs currently reside in “one-bid” leagues. Most seasons if they don’t win their conference tournament, they usually don’t earn an NCAA tournament at-large berth. However, the A-10 has received multiple NCAA bids for five consecutive seasons.