With four schools departing the Atlantic 10 Conference this summer many wondered where the league would turn to fill the voids left by Temple, Charlotte, Xavier and Butler.
Now, just days removed from the National Championship game it appears the league has already answered that question. After successfully recruiting former Colonial Athletic Association member George Mason, it now seems likely that Davidson will be the newest member of the A10 (as per this report from CBS Sports).
So what does it mean for the A10 which continues to adapt as well as any league in the country among the ever-changing college athletics landscape?
Essentially, that the league is navigating rough waters as well as anyone could expect.
While the A10 knew they would be losing Temple and Charlotte heading into the season, few would have predicted then that Xavier and first year league member Butler would bolt for the new Big East this spring. With their losses at four teams and the potential for more looming (Saint Louis and Dayton have been rumored to be potential fits for the new Big East next season if/when it expands) it was critical for the league to right the ship and add quality basketball centered schools as quickly as possible.
Commissioner Bernadette McGlade has done just that by tabbing Mason and now apparently Davidson in short order.
In these two, the league adds a pair of programs who are committed year in and year out. Mason has a Final Four appearance as recently as 2006 and Davidson has reached the NCAA Tournament five times since 2006 including a run to the Elite Eight (with now-NBA star Stephen Curry in ’08).
George Mason will share a geographic rivalry with Richmond, VCU and George Washington while Davidson will replace departing Charlotte in that media market (Davidson is just 20 miles north of Uptown Charlotte). Davidson has been one of the most successful mid-major programs in the nation over the past decade with 23rd year head coach Bob McKillop’s teams winning nine SoCon regular season titles since 2002. As for George Mason, despite losing Final Four architect Jim Larranaga to Miami, the school hired a Final Four coach of their own in former Georgia Tech head man Paul Hewitt, who becomes another high profile coach in a league that has been known for them.
This past season, Mason won 22 games and was the CBI Tournament runner-up (Mason has won no fewer than 22 games in the past three seasons) while Davidson won 26 games before falling to third seed Marquette by one point in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
While it appears that McGlade is done adding schools, there have been reports that the league has also informally gauged interest of MAAC member Siena. A small Franciscan school located just outside of Albany, Siena could be another solid addition. The Saints have had recent NCAA success (trips in 2008, ’09 and ’10) play in a first class arena (the 15K seat plus Times Union Center) which they regularly pack and have new head coach who’s a proven winner (Jimmy Patsos from Loyola, Maryland).
Whether or not the A10 extends an invitation Siena’s way, McGlade has steered the league towards calmer waters during this turbulent time. Losing flagship teams in Temple and Xavier could have been a crushing blow to the A10. Losing Butler on top of those two could have sent the league back another couple of steps. That didn’t happen. McGlade and company picked up the pieces, did their homework, and have appeared to rope in two winners.
With George Mason and Davidson in the fold, the Atlantic 10 is alive and well heading into 2013-2014.