The new Big East officially passed over Dayton and picked Xavier, Butler and Creighton to join the Catholic 7 schools to begin play in 2013-14.
Dayton’s hope now is that the new league isn’t finished expanding.
While Xavier and Butler were considered shoo-ins all along to be included, Creighton emerged from some fierce competition to become the 10th member.
The league has a 12-year contract with Fox Sports, and ESPN.com reported that a Xavier official said the school will make $2.5 million annually, up from about $400,000 per year in the Atlantic 10.
The league is still expected to reach 12 teams, perhaps as soon as next year, and Dayton figures to remain under consideration.
“I’m very optimistic,” UD Athletic Director Tim Wabler said. “When you look at it, we’ve got a very robust and successful athletics program. We’re winning conference championships. We’re going to the NCAA in a number of our sports. Obviously, we need to get through this transition within our men’s basketball program. And we’re in full support with coach (Archie) Miller and where he’s headed, and we’re giving him every opportunity to see how successful we can be.”
“At the end of the day, any institution that’s being talked about, quite frankly, has a very successful athletics program,” he added. “And now it’s going to come down to television. It’s going to come down to, somewhat, geography. It’s going to come down to fit. As conferences go forward — irrespective of what conference we’re talking about — those are the things people are going to be looking for.”
Still, it was a blow to be passed over by Creighton, which is some 450 miles from the next nearest member of the Big East. The Blue Jays haven’t made any deep NCAA tournament runs as the Musketeers and Bulldogs have done, although the Missouri Valley Conference team has made nine NCAA tourney appearances and four trips to the NIT since 1999.
Dayton has had four NCAA and six NIT berths in that span.
Miller knows, much like his program, Creighton had some strong selling points.
“One of the things you have to look at Creighton is current success and postseason success over the last 10-20 years,” he said. “They don’t make a decision based on who are you right now. Decisions are clearly being made with realignment on stability and whether you’re built to last. Creighton’s attendance being at 15,000 or 16,000 (per game), their ability right now to make postseason appearances within the last 10 years, it kind of makes some sense.
“I also feel like there’s going to be more options. Whether that league changes its face and adds a public school or two or whether it stays private, they reached into a new dynamic with Omaha, Neb. It’ll be interesting to see how it works moving forward.”
The Flyers will be in the Atlantic 10 at least one more year. The conference already was losing Temple to the former Big East and Charlotte to Conference USA and will be down to 12 members with the departures of Xavier and Butler.
The league had 10 teams in the top 100 of the RPI this season and six remain. UD, normally a top-100 program, had an RPI of 114 while finishing 17-14 this season.
Of course, the A-10 likely won’t stand pat after those high-profile defections.
“The conference could very well stay at 12. However, we’re a very desirable conference at the same time, and there are institutions that want to get into this conference. … (But) any type of conference realignment discussions are very sensitive and obviously very confidential,” Wabler said.
Miller believes the A-10 still is an attractive conference and will be highly competitive.
“You look at Saint Louis and what they’re returning, VCU maybe being a preseason top-10 team, UMass bringing just about everybody back after being a 2 seed in the NIT. I look at St. Joe’s returning everyone but (starting guard) Carl Jones,” Miller said. “The fact that Xavier, Butler and Temple won’t be there, maybe that’s disheartening, but at the same time, if you switch up that league schedule and go to a round robin or play 18 games or break it into divisions, you could see head-to-head matchups with the best teams in the league the whole way.
“I’m not sure there’s a very weak bottom. La Salle made the NCAA tournament. I can’t say enough about the quality of teams in the league. Even if you go to 12 teams next year, those teams at eighth or ninth are still going to be great games.”
The exodus of Xavier has put the future of its rivalry with Dayton in doubt. The schools have played 160 times, more than any other two teams in the A-10, and have met every season since 1945.
The Flyers want the series to survive, but the Musketeers will be calling the shots.
“We will have 18 Big East Conference games, which is more league games than we have had in any conference in our history,” a Xavier spokesman said. “That will impact our non-conference schedule, but it’s too early to talk about specifics.”
Miller believes the games have value for both schools.
“It’s a great rivalry, in particular for Southwest Ohio,” he said. “But it takes two to tango, and we’re going to have to take a look at where they are and keep moving forward. I would hope at some point in time, we’ll be able to re-engage.”
Wabler hopes to keep playing not only Xavier, but Butler.
“Obviously, it’s going to be our intention to see how we can keep these going,” he said. “I think with Xavier, it’s a long-standing rivalry. It’s an incredible television game for both schools and both conferences.
“With Butler, I’ve just thought we match up very well from an institution standpoint … throughout the whole spectrum of sports.”