The A10's Five-Bid Swan Song

by Dave Morus

Swan Song - n. - the last act or manifestation of someone or something; farewell appearance

We knew going into the season that the A10 was going to lose some teams. Temple had announced its intentions to move on to what is for only a short while longer the Big East (a move they must be questioning now) and Charlotte decided to return to CUSA to pursue their football dreams. The long-rumored football/basketball split in the Big East had been discussed, but it seemed to be something that would take time to materialize.

Of course, as we know, that time is now. Xavier and Butler are all but out, and there is the possibility of losing SLU and Dayton to the Mid-Major Big East in the near future. I could comment on many things. I could discuss, for example how the Dayton media market (the stunning 63rd largest) gives this league nothing, especially when you already have Xavier in western Ohio, but I would probably end up sounding grumpy and bitter. And we wouldn't want that.

So it seems that it is time to bid a wistful farewell to what we have known of the Atlantic 10 conference. It will absolutely live on in one form or another, but the fact remains that - although we have five bids - two of those five schools are leaving, and a third could soon be out as well.

We've had encouraging signs in recent years, with SBU's accomplishments last year and those of LaSalle this year. The problem, however, is that even with replacements for the departing schools, the level of competition will not be close to what it was. That will result in fewer at-large bids for the conference. In recent years three or four bids has been typical. The future probably holds no more than two or maybe three per year. Out-of-conference schedule matters, but the selection committee also seems to consider how much and how often a team has faced a real test, and right now the Atlantic 10 won't provide many tests from December until March.

We have also seen the conference ranked among the BCS conferences by many prestigious services, and at times ranked above some of them. With the loss of anchor programs and no one in the wings to be anything more than serviceable, those days too seem to have passed.

I don't intend to be pessimistic. There are certainly some quality programs out there that could be picked up. The problem is that as they stand, there isn't a "name" draw to most of them. The best case as far as reloading is concerned would be that two teams with a favorable geographic placement both make a Sweet 16 or Elite 8 run and become media darlings, and then the A10 is able to snatch them. Stranger things have happened.

The real issue is that everyone seems to want to upgrade, even if the upgrade is more perception than reality. New heights of what is elite are being forged so that there's something else to upgrade to. But how many levels can we really have, and how sustainable can this be? At best, everyone upgrades, so the net result is the same. At worst, the disparity between the "haves" and the "have-nots" becomes larger. I think that this new Mid Major Big East (Medium East?) will quickly find that despite name and history, even recent history, they will soon be just another non-BCS league.

Realignment has brought up many doubts and concerns about many facets of college athletics. These are all questions that'll inevitably be answered when the dust settles. For now, though, enjoy an NCAA with five Atlantic 10 teams featured. It may not happen ever again, but it is certainly a testament to the accomplishments of the finest mid-major conference in the country.