One way or another, this is a watershed moment for University of Dayton basketball.
Either UD eventually gets in the new basketball power conference formed by the breakaway schools from the Big East Conference — the Catholic 7, as they are known — and has hoops status like never before or the Flyers stay in a watered-down Atlantic 10 without their closest rival and in the process find themselves firmly fitted with that mid-major tag they work so hard to shed.
Unlike Xavier and Butler, UD will not be part of the new league — which will retain the Big East name — when it debuts as early as next season. The Musketeers — Dayton’s staunchest rival for decades — and Butler, the nearby hoops wonder program that seemed likely to become the Flyers’ newest rival, have been asked to join the breakaway seven: Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova, Providence, DePaul and Marquette.
While some news sources are saying Dayton is a likely pick should the league expand to 12 teams in the future, CBSSports.com has reported the league may stop at nine or 10. And most reports are that Creighton will be that 10th school.
Trust me, this is news the Flyers didn’t want to hear.
Now they are in the “Please Pick Me Pool,” left with their nose pressed against the window, joined in a scrum for two spots by Saint Louis, Richmond and VCU. And that casting couch almost certainly will get more crowded.
There are also reports that schools like Marquette and Georgetown might be lobbying for programs other than UD to join.
Dayton athletics director Tim Wabler told the Dayton Daily News that there has been no communication between anyone representing the Catholic 7 and UD.
A month ago, though — just before the Flyers tipped off against Xavier at the Cintas Center — Wabler told me that he and school president Dan Curran were a committee of two representing the school’s interests with the Catholic 7.
Rightly so, Wabler plays his cards close to his vest. He’s also a man of his word. But I’ve got to believe the overtures for UD’s inclusion into the new power conference have been clearly — and repeatedly — made.
UD wants in this new conference — period.
With a pot-of-gold TV deal about to come from Fox Sports, individual schools would get as much as $3 million each, maybe more, in annual broadcast rights fees. That’s more than 10 times what UD now gets from the A-10.
If you miss out on that windfall, it affects your program on so many fronts. With the new league having such a strong Midwestern presence — Xavier, Butler, DePaul and Marquette — and all those schools now flush with cash and high-profile status, recruiting against them in the region would become a herculean battle.
And say what you want, the UD schedule would have a gaping hole if Xavier opts out of playing the Flyers. Certainly there wouldn’t be two games. Instantly you lose the yang to your ying each season. It’s like Ohio State suddenly without Michigan, the team the Bucks love to hate and beat.
Nearly two decades ago UD — after winning 13 games in two seasons — got unceremoniously dumped by the Great Midwest Conference and that seemed like a terrible blow.
It wasn’t. The Flyers under then-AD Ted Kissell’s guidance — he’s deservedly going into the UD Hall of Fame today — bounced straight into the A-10 and the Great Midwest is now long gone.
But in the ever-shifting landscape of college sports, this situation is different. A coffer full of money and a real upgrade of status are at stake.
Either you’re playing the teams such as Xavier, Georgetown, Butler and Villanova on TV or you’re still trudging along with the likes of St. Bonaventure and Fordham and some new A-10 additions such as Siena or whomever.
Power conference or second-tier status?