The Atlantic 10 has been bracing for months for an impending raid by the Catholic 7, and it was no great surprise that Xavier and Butler reportedly were chosen to join the breakaways schools from the Big East in a new conference next season.
But being passed over, at least for now, was a blow to Dayton, which had hoped its fan base, game-day experience and renowned arena would make up for an absence of any deep runs in the NCAA tournament for decades. The school wanted to be part of the initial launch, not spend more time in limbo.
ESPN, Fox Sports and SportsIllustrated.com all reported Thursday that UD is expected to be in the next round of additions along with Creighton and Saint Louis as the new league swells to its anticipated 12 teams.
And the New York Post, citing multiple sources, reported Friday the league “will expand to 10 schools, adding Butler, Creighton and Xavier, and begin play next season. The Catholic 7 also will retain the Big East name, making the reconfigured conference once again the Beast of the East. St. Louis and Dayton will join the Big East for the 2014-2015 season, said additional sources, giving the league an East and West Division.”
But there are no certainties and may not be for weeks. And given what’s at stake, these are anxious times for UD officials.
“I think it’s a high probability they’re going to be selected, especially given the fact Xavier was selected,” said Derrick Dukes, a former 1,000-point scorer for UD who broadcasts Flyer games for Fox Sports Ohio and WHIO-TV. “I would like to think the folks at the Big East making that decision would recognize the incredible rivalry with Dayton and Xavier and would want to keep it and even take it to a more prominent level because of more exposure in the Big East.
“As they say, the night is still young. There may be some future announcements (about the Flyers joining next season). But if not this year, I would be absolutely stunned and blown away if Dayton is not a part of that league before the 2014-15 season.”
Pete Gillen has followed the developments and has a unique perspective as a former coach for one of the Catholic 7 (Providence) and for one of the likely invitees (Xavier). Although the new league could be content to stay at nine or 10 teams after playing one season, he believes it ultimately will get to 12.
He’s hearing Richmond as a possible candidate, perhaps favored by nearby Georgetown. He’s also not sure if Creighton is ideal because of the distance from some of the Eastern-most schools.
To Gillen, UD is a no-brainer.
“I hope Dayton gets in. They deserve to get in,” he said. “They get 13,000 for just about every home game. Tremendous tradition. They’d be a nice traveling partner with Xavier. A team plays Xavier on a Saturday and, on a Monday, they go up and play Dayton. I think it would make a lot of sense. Dayton would be a perfect fit.”
Fox, which is starting a sports network this year, wants the league to be one of its programming anchors and is reportedly set to offer each school more than $3 million annually in TV rights fees.
“Dayton is obviously a great candidate. The question (Fox) is going to have to answer and the decision they’re going to have to make is, how big do they want their footprint to be?” said Seth Davis, a CBS college basketball analyst and a studio host during the network’s NCAA tournament coverage. “We can all say, ‘Oh, it should be regional and there should be rivalries,’ but the fact is television wants a big footprint. Television likes multiple time zones.”
Davis isn’t sure Dayton brings much more to the new Big East that it doesn’t already have. And he believes that rival Musketeers could be a potential stumbling block with regional recruiting wars on the line.
“Does Xavier necessarily want Dayton? That’s a big question, too,” Davis said. “That was big thing with the ACC. Boston College did not want UConn in the ACC. Villanova didn’t want Temple in the Big East for the same reason.
“Again, it’s all about footprint. If you have Xavier and you have Cincinnati (as a market) and there are only so many slots, do you want to do one that’s 40 miles away?”
No matter what schools are picked, the A-10 is likely to end up gutted. Not only are Xavier, Butler and perhaps Dayton and Saint Louis on the way out, but Temple and Charlotte are leaving for new conferences after this season. And UMass, which plays FBS football in the Mid-American Conference, is expected to eventually be looking for a new home for all of its sports.
The A-10 almost certainly will be down to no more than 12 schools next year and will be left with few high-profile programs, unless Commissioner Bernadette McGlade coaxes some top non-power conference teams to come aboard.
“It’s sad because I think it’s one of the best leagues in the country this year,” Gillen said. “It’s better than some of the so-called Big Sixes, the power conferences. It’s better than the SEC and better than the Pac-12.
“I think it hurts a lot, but that’s just the world we’re in. The changes won’t stop this year. I think it’s going to go on for another year or two. You hear some of the ACC schools want to go to the Big Ten. It’s just a continuing circle. It’s unfortunate. It’s all money. It’s crazy.”