The makeup of the Atlantic 10 is shifting once again, as Davidson announced it would join the league for the 2014-2015 season last week. The Wildcats join George Mason as the league’s newcomers, who the conference hopes will fill the void created by four departing schools, including longtime members Temple and Xavier and basketball powerhouse Butler.
Richmond competes in the A-10 in all sports except for football, golf and men’s lacrosse.
Davidson and George Mason “fit well within the mission and vision of our conference,” A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade said. “They are very strong academically, they are prestigious institutions, and they have a national commitment to their men’s basketball programs and an overall broad-based Olympic sport program.”
Richmond Athletic Director Keith Gill said men’s basketball was the sport the league focused on the most when adding Davidson and George Mason.
“It’s not the only thing that you would consider when you make these decisions, but it’s certainly right there at the top of the list,” he said.
Davidson’s and George Mason’s basketball programs each have had national success in the past decade. As an 11-seed, George Mason beat four higher seeded teams, including 1-seed Connecticut to reach the Final Four in 2006. Davidson, led by current NBA star Stephen Curry, reached the Regional Finals in 2008.
“I think it’s good because its two schools who are geographically close to Richmond,” Richmond men’s basketball coach Chris Mooney said. “George Mason is an old rival from the CAA which is great for our fans, and Davidson is a very similar school profile-wise. I think the additions are really good for Richmond specifically.”
“Richmond is one of our strongest programs,” McGlade said. “I think that they really appreciate the strength of the A-10, and they understand that getting multiple bids into the NCAA Championship is really one of the hallmarks of a national conference.”
Five A-10 teams, including Butler and Temple, earned bids to the NCAA Championship last season, which was the same amount of bids as the Pac-12 and Big-12 received and more than the ACC.
Both Temple, who was one of the founding members of the A-10, and UNC-Charlotte announced they would move to the old Big East (now called the American Athletic Conference) and Conference USA respectively last spring. Temple and Charlotte, who are the only current schools in the A-10 with FBS football programs, wanted to join a league where football was the focus, McGlade said.
Butler, who only competed in the A-10 for one season, and Xavier announced they would join the new Big East in March. Since 2009, Butler has reached the National Championship twice and Xavier has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen three times.
The departing schools “all have really strong basketball traditions and have really been good for the A-10,” Gill said. “We will certainly miss them, but we are really excited about what the conference looks like.”
The A-10 will have 13 teams and play a 16 game schedule next season. Mooney said he was sure Richmond and crosstown rival VCU would play twice next season.
As conference realignment has shown, there is always potential for more teams to switch conferences. ESPN’s Dana O’Neil and Andy Katz reported that A-10 schools St. Louis and Dayton are expected to follow Butler and Xavier to the Big East in 2014. Katz also listed Richmond as potential long shot to receive an invitation to the Big East.
McGlade said if she knew how conference realignment was going to shake out, she would “have the best crystal ball in America.”
“I think we are coming into a period of stability,” she said. “I feel like we are in great position now with the addition of George Mason and Davidson.”
“I think that we would consistently consider all of our options,” Mooney said. “But I think that we are in a great position, and we are extremely proud to be in the A-10.”
Contact staff writer Jack Nicholson at firstname.lastname@example.org