0-55 and what the A-10 Should Learn from CAA Expansion

by Rogabee

Today, Butler and Xavier officially announced their departures from the Atlantic 10 Conference.  With the departures, it's time to once again look at where the A10 can expand and improve.  This post will specifically look at recent history and the CAA for advice.

Many thought the CAA expansion of America East schools were solid additions and a coup for the Colonial Athletic Association.  Delaware, Drexel, Hofstra, Towson and Northeastern all joined the CAA from the America East at some point in time, with many thinking that those teams successful in the America East would help the CAA.  Since joining the Colonial, however, those schools are a combined 0-55 in their quests for an NCAA appearance.  They have drug the CAA down with them, as the CAA has went from a top 12 conference before the expansion down to the #26 conference this year and all but assured of one bid, which was a 16 seed for James Madison.  This is why while many want the A-10 to be aggressive and proactive in expansion, I'd rather the A-10 be prudent.  If you make the wrong decision, you could fall back into CAA oblivion.  Especially since there are no surefire bets like the last A10 expansion effort of VCU and Butler, but rather a large quantity of teams out there that you can debate the merits of inclusion.  Given as though no league dating back the last 40 years has booted an all-sports member, I'd prefer to hold pat for now rather than get stuck with someone you don't want in your league for eternity.  In my opinion, it would be best to have the Atlantic 10 ask incoming schools to prove themselves first, at least for a longer time period, which the league likely can do.  

Outside of the Big East (Catholic 7 plus Butler, Creighton, and Xavier), the A-10 will still be the next best conference in the eastern part of the country.  As such, the A-10 will still be in a power position to raid teams from other conferences later should the A-10 so desire.  There is - at least in this blogger's mind - no need for a rash decision that could come back to haunt the league for years to come for publicity's sake of repairing the Atlantic 10 after the defections of Xavier and Butler.  The current league should not risk another debacle like Fordham that could kill the Atlantic 10 much the way some of the above schools have hurt the Colonial.  We'll need teams that will win out-of-conference in the long run, and if you're not sure then ask the teams to prove more to you.  They'll still be there and want in, as we'll still be the next stepping stone.

The other reason why I'd prefer staying pat (or close to pat) is the NCAA Tourney credits.  The A-10 would bring in a large quantity of tourney credits, the exact number depending on how many games the VCU, SLU, Butler, Temple, and La Salle win in the tourney this year.  For now, I'll use 35 credits, which is very conservative and presumes the A10 wins only one game this year.  I believe last year each tournament credit was worth around $250,000 per school per year dating back 6 years.  The problem is the more teams that are in the league, the less each individual team will receive.  Using the $250,000 amount, a ten-team league divided evenly would get each school $25,000 per credit per year, whereas divided 12 ways it would be $20,833 for the departing members.  It may not seem like a lot, but presuming 35 credits for the tournament that adds to $145,000 per school per year.  In these days of every decision being financial, $145,000 per school is a lot of money to leave on the table for, especially given this trend may continue forward for the next few years as this year will be the high point of tournament credits.

With little viable candidates for the next season out there to gain tournament credits immediately, waiting rather than bringing in a team who isn't likely a tournament team is the best financial decision for the current members.  It may be the best in the long run also, as you don't risk falling to CAA status with poor selections you're eternally married to and can't divorce.  Why not wait and make other teams prove themselves as good enough to enter the A-10?