Why I'm in favor of a 16 Team Atlantic 10

By Steve DiMiceli

Much has been discussed regarding how to replace Temple in the Atlantic 10. Quickly, Butler's interest to join the conference emerged. More recently, we've learned that VCU and George Mason are candidates potentially giving the conference a monopoly of the mid major appearances in the Final Four and three solid brands to add to an already solid list of schools. From the disappointment of losing Temple, the Atlantic 10 could emerge as an even stronger more stable league. However, the key to attaining both strength and stability is not settling for a one for one replacement of the Owls. Instead, the league needs to go to 16 teams to reinvent  itself in the short run, maintain competitiveness and to preserve itself well into the future.
No single addition to the league would replace Temple straight up. Temple was the last remaining traditional Division I football and basketball program left  and it gave us a certain level of clout. I would often argue that you can't call a conference that contains Temple mid major. Even more so than UMass and Rhode Island, Temple brought a big, recognizable publicly funded program to the Atlantic 10. Aside from just the competitive loss of  a top program, the league will take a huge hit in terms of perception.

As much of a media darling Butler has been, their stay in the public conscience has been a relatively brief one. A solid and strong mid major program for much of the last 5 years, Butler emerged as the Gonzaga of the Mid West even before their first run to the Final Four in 2010. However, they lack the tradition of Temple. Butler became of consistent threat little more than a decade ago while Temple have been strong for decades. If you can't offset Temple's tradition with the recent success of Butler, you can off set it with the recent success of George Mason and VCU.  After all in the last five years,  those three schools combined  for as many Final Four appearances as Temple does in their history. Bringing all three in creates the excitement of a mid major super conference in the wake of the losing Temple. In essence, the league completes its rebrand from a basketball conference for football independents to one for up and coming basketball oriented programs. Rather than replace Temple, we would rebuff them. Football is an after thought for all but a couple of programs and it's image is no longer needed.  Further the three additional teams would enhance the conference not dilute it like some of the programs entering the Big East. Three programs would both change and raise the profile of the conference beyond what just one could.

Going to 16 schools helps maintain the competitiveness of the league. Without Temple, the A-10 drops to a two to three bid conference and certainly puts the league behind the CUSA-MWC merger and possibly the Valley. Adding the best of the Horizon and Colonial keeps the conference in the top 6 or 7  nationally most years. It should also make the league a near lock for 4 or 5 bids. Competitively, adding three teams should make for better strength of schedule attributed to conference and more marquis match ups should help attendance and TV rating which in turn will help recruiting and finical growth. No one school mentioned would generate this much interest and growth by itself when compared to Temple. Combined, they could make the conference even more competitive than in it's current state.

With a likely Big East football/basketball split to occur down the road, going to 16 teams will  preserve the conference and help it remain attractive even after the some the better teams are inevitably promoted. This is important to me as a Duquesne fan as we're likely to be left a behind. Knowing that 8 - 10 other scorned conference mates will be around  to rebuild the league is a lot more reassuring than  only 6 or 7. At 16 teams, the worst case scenario long term for the Dukes is competing in a weakened Atlantic 10 that will likely keep a couple of strong programs and potentially stay two bids. That feels a lot better than clinging to Bona and going to the MAAC or trying to rebuild with just St Joe's or Rhode Island. For this reason, I hate the idea of going to 12 teams. Allowing both Temple and Charlotte to depart without replacing either school leaves the league vulnerable to disbanding completely should the Big East dissolve. 16 teams buys peace of mind  for the long term health of both the Atlantic 10 and Duquesne.