A-10 gains more strength, as VCU joins conference

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The Atlantic 10 Conference has improved its profile again, adding another university with a men's basketball program that is on the rise.

The league formally announced the addition of Virginia Commonwealth University on Tuesday, bringing the conference to 15 teams for the 2012-13 season.

"VCU very much feels honored in the opportunity to join the Atlantic 10," university president Michael Rao said during a teleconference with reporters. "We view it as a premier conference in this nation. This is really an important opportunity that is in the best interest of our university. ... This is the next step."

The A-10 added VCU, which is leaving the Colonial Athletic Association, on the heels of landing Butler from the Horizon League to replace outgoing Temple.

Temple, which is joining the Big East, and Charlotte, which will join Conference USA, will compete in basketball in the A-10 in the upcoming season but leave the following year.

The fact that VCU will begin play next season in the conference will mean some schedule shuffling.

A-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade said the subject will be broached at next week's spring meetings in Naples, Fla., where a move from 16 to 18 league games will be considered.

VCU made a splash in the 2011 NCAA tournament when coach Shaka Smart, considered one of the bright young minds in college basketball, led the Rams to the Final Four.

One of the advantages the A-10 has had over the CAA is the number of at-large bids the conference gets in the NCAA tournament field. This year the A-10 had three at-large bids, the CAA none.

VCU will forfeit some $5 million in shares of the CAA's postseason tournament, pay an exit fee of $250,000 and pay a $700,000 entry fee to the A-10.

"One of the driving forces and priorities of the A-10 is to further enhance our national prominence in men's basketball, build our brand and strengthen our current footprint," McGlade said. "In addition to bringing in well-rounded sports programs across the board, VCU solidifies the A-10 academically and athletically."

Duquesne athletic director Greg Amodio said the addition strengthens the league and positions it as the premiere basketball conference in the country outside of the big six conferences.

The Dukes will play the Rams at least once next year.

"Across the board it makes a lot of sense," Amodio said. "The conference under [McGlade] has done a great job of staying basketball-centric. That is incredibly appealing to programs that are basketball-centric. It's a significant part of their brand. ... It's hard to buy that kind of PR when you're playing in the Final Four.

"Folks who might not have known where Butler was located or VCU was located before, they probably know now."

Father Michael Graham, Xavier president and chair of the A-10 council of presidents, said the move is evidence of the proactive approach the league has taken since conference realignment first surfaced.

"We're not interested in not being in the driver's seat in respect to the future of our conference," he said. "At this point we're just very glad to welcome VCU in and think of this as a great day in the Atlantic 10."

NOTES -- Amodio will attend the league's spring meetings in Florida next week with men's coach Jim Ferry and women's coach Suzie McConnell-Serio.



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