Coaches and administrators lauded the Atlantic 10’s expansion plan at GW’s annual basketball media event Friday, calling it both financially and competitively beneficial to the University and the league.
The A-10 announced Thursday it will expand from 12 to 14 teams beginning in 2005-06, when the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and St. Louis University join the league. The official acceptance from each school will most likely occur on Monday or Tuesday, GW Director of Athletics Jack Kvancz said.
“I think we invited the two best basketball teams we could possibly get as far as (Ratings Percentage Index) rankings and drawing fans,” he said.
Both the Charlotte and St. Louis men’s basketball teams ranked higher than GW last year in the RPI, a statistic the NCAA uses to measure a team’s relative competitiveness.
By playing against teams with higher RPIs, the GW men’s basketball team could increase its RPI, a factor the NCAA also considers when selecting teams for the NCAA Tournament.
Despite St. Louis’s 16-14 record last season, Kvancz, who finished his term on the NCAA’s selection committee this year, said the committee almost gave the Billikens an at-large bid to the tournament due to their tough schedule.
“These are two great schools,” he said. “I think every team in the league is going to have to get better, and as a result, we may get a few more teams into the tournament every year.”
In addition to improving competition and RPI rankings, men’s basketball head coach Karl Hobbs said the move could change the recruiting landscape for GW.
“I think the move will definitely broaden our recruiting base,” he said. “If you look where those teams are in the Midwest, we can go into an area like Chicago and recruit there.”
GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg had expressed support for Charlotte and St. Louis as athletic schools but said in September that he had academic concerns about them, as both are significantly lower than GW in the 2004 U.S. News and World Report rankings. Trachtenberg could not be reached for comment on Friday.
Another concern is the increased cost of travel. With the A-10 soon stretching far away from the coastline, teams’ travel costs will increase. But Kvancz said the benefits of an improvement in the competition level of all sports will outweigh any extra travel expenses that teams are likely to face.
Hobbs said the A-10 would not have made the move if it didn’t anticipate profiting from it.
“This is a very enterprising move,” he said. “But it’s strictly a financial decision. The league isn’t really thinking about the student athletes here.”
Women’s basketball head coach Joe McKeown didn’t seem concerned.
“I don’t really have an opinion on it yet,” he said. “Things change. When I came into the league, we were trying to chase Rutgers and Penn State. I’m so old, I’ve seen teams come and go.”