George Mason Out: The Next Move

By Steve DiMiceli

Shortly after Temple announced they were leaving the league, I did a comparison of the 4 schools I thought were the favorites to join the A-10, Butler, George Mason, VCU and Old Dominion. I also explained why I thought a 16 teams A-10 made sense. Since those posts, Charlotte announced they would be leaving for Conference USA. Today, George Mason told Steven Goff of the Washington Post they were staying put in the CAA. As an A - 10 fan, I'm disappointed, because I thought  the Patriots made the most sense for the league. If the A-10 wants to go to 16 as I suspect they do, it's back to the drawing board. I think a number of schools make sense.

First, I'd like to talk about who I don't think it will be. Cleveland St seems to fit the bill geographically and they have a lot of upside. On my rating scale they scored a 35 which tied them for the 4th overall score with Butler. Problem is their academics are terrible. The more I think about them, the less of a chance I think they have. Another extreme long shot that I've seen discussed by fans is about 40 miles south of Cleve St in Akron. The Zips would be a nice choice but they would have the cumbersome decision of what to do with their D-I football program. While C-USA allows UMass and allowed Temple to field a football team in the league while playing all other sports in the A-10, it's doubtful they would allow a current full member to make the same arrangement. Akron would bring some serious upside and a great coach to the A-10, but sadly it won't happen. Finally, you can get Notre Dame out of your brain. If they continue to hold the stubborn line on independent football, I could see them in the A-10 at some point, but that point is not now.

So who should the A-10 be looking at?


Geography Current Brand Untapped Potential Facilties Market/Share
Siena 9 5 10 8 8 40

Siena ranks right up there with the favorites for me. While it's not a great market, Albany packs a little punch and right now, Siena are only ball game in town. They draw surprisingly well in an area that historically has not supported teams, but they play before a half full 15,000 seat Times Union Center for many low profile MAAC contests. Between their currently strong fan support, and a big arena, I think they have a chance to grow their current brand and become a really strong program. They're a risk for sure, but they seem like the best bet other than VCU in the current geographic footprint.


Geography Current Brand Untapped Potential Facilties Market/Share
Creighton 0.5 9 6 10 8 33.5

I originally thought Creighton would be easy to dismiss because of geographic constraints, but I've seen them mentioned enough to think there could be mutual interest. They're a strong program that would raise the profile of the A-10 and immediately compete at the top of the league.  They play at and regularly fill a top notch 18,000 seat arena. Like Siena, Creighton are the only high profile sports team in a mid sized market. My one concern with Creighton is that they really aren't going to be able to take it much higher just by moving to the A-10.


Geography Current Brand Untapped Potential Facilties Market/Share
Towson 10.5 1 8 6 6 31.5

With one win over the last two seasons and probation hanging over the men's basketball program, I realize I'm taking a chance even mentioning the Tigers here. However, with Pat Skerry at the helm, I believe this is a program that will rise and rise fast. Should Towson decide to stay in the CAA or they are not pursued, I could see them as the big winner should VCU and Old Dominion depart. They're currently building an arena that would be on the small side for the A-10, but it is shiny and new. Baltimore is a huge market with mediocre fans, but it is in a great geographic position for the A-10. Truly, that sets the Tigers apart.

Beyond those three, there are a handful of fringe candidates. Davidson, Southern Illinois, Valpo, Bradley, and Hofstra all fall into the best of the rest category. If it got to that point, I'd rather overlook Cleveland St.'s academic record or just stick to whatever we've got.

At this point, the league needs to add a team for sure. Looking at the field, I like the idea of staying at 14 more and more with George Mason out of the mix. Should VCU snub the A-10 as well and Old Dominion not surprised us, we're suddenly looking at what some might call a reach just to get back to 14. If the league locked up Siena and Creighton for slots 15 and 16 to go along with one of the Virginia schools at 14, I'd still be pretty excited. I'd be fine with Towson too. Anybody else and it would probably feel like expansion for the sake of expansion.