Changes in Atlantic 10 membership will shift this summer as four teams leave for other conferences, while George Mason University will join the University of Richmond in the 13-team league.
It was announced at a press conference Monday that the school would join the A-10 about a week after it was confirmed that Xavier University, Butler University, Temple University and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte would depart from the conference.
A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade said that the announcement of George Mason’s admittance into the league was not necessarily linked to announcements from the departing teams.
Richmond men’s basketball coach Chris Mooney said he had heard rumors of the team joining the league last year when the conference had expanded.
Richmond Athletic Director Keith Gill said the departure of several teams and the addition of George Mason would affect conference play, but it would be difficult to determine which sports would be impacted more.
“George Mason will be strong in some sports and not the others,” he said. “I think certainly there will be some impact felt across the conference, but for the most part I think it will be positive.”
The Patriots’ men’s basketball team made it to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament in 2006.
Mooney said the addition of George Mason would help salvage the loss of the other teams, but not replace them.
Although the four departing teams finished in the top half of the A-10 men’s basketball standings this season, Mooney and Gill both said they believed the conference would remain a strong, basketball-centric league.
George Mason, the largest school in the state, will be the third Virginia school in the conference, along with Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Steven Knapp, the president of George Washington University, said he thought having three Virginia schools and two in the D.C. metro area would strengthen regional excitement for the A-10 and enhance the rivalry among the teams.
Last fall, the A-10 secured an eight-year media and television rights contract with ESPN, CBS Sports Network and NBC Sports Group, which would more than double the men’s and women’s basketball exposures beginning the 2013-2014 season, according to the conference website.
McGlade said she hoped the contract would stay intact as it was.
Coaches discussed at a recent meeting how the media market will be affected by the loss of four teams, Mooney said. The market around the Charlotte, N.C., area will probably weaken while the Virginia and D.C. metro area will strengthen, he said.
Despite rumors that Dayton University and St. Louis University would also leave the conference after the 2013-2014 season, Gill said he wasn’t worried about changes in league landscape.
“We understand that right now in our business change is a constant, and so we do everything we can to be diligent and make sure we’re prepared for anything that may come,” he said.
Gill said he thought Richmond coaches and athletes were happy in the A-10.
Mooney said what he loved most about the A-10 was the diversity of the schools.
“I love everything about it,” he said. “You have old, traditional powers. You have big, beautiful arenas and small gyms; you have schools in cities and schools outside of cities.”
Although many conferences have an even number of members, nothing has been announced publicly about adding a 14th member to the conference.
“The number of member institutions is not necessarily the be-all and end-all,” McGlade said. “It’s really what institutions make up the Atlantic 10, and we feel like our membership right now is really at an all-time high.
“An odd number is actually great for basketball scheduling.”
Mooney said he preferred a smaller league with 10 teams because then it was possible to play each team twice.
Charlotte will join Conference USA.
Xavier and Butler have opted to join the new Big East conference, which will be formed from the seven schools in the current Big East that are not part of the Football Bowl Subdivision. The current Big East conference will adopt a new name later this year.
As announced last year, all Temple sports will leave the A-10 to join the school’s football team as part of the current Big East conference.
Contact reporter Avery Shackelford at firstname.lastname@example.org