VCU will officially join the Atlantic 10 starting July 1

Tony Taylor, men's basketball
Then-sophomore Tony Taylor drives around a VCU defender during the 2009-10 season. Hatchet File Photo.

VCU will join the Atlantic 10 July 1, the league announced Tuesday, coinciding with previous reports that the Rams would become the second new member of the A-10 following Butler.

VCU fields 16 of the A-10’s 21 championship sports and will enter league competition in the 2012-2013 season, bringing the total number of programs in the conference for the upcoming season to 15. The Rams were already scheduled as a non-conference opponent for the Colonials, and that game will now count among GW’s conference match-ups.

“It really is a pleasure and an honor for me to welcome Virginia Commonwealth University to the Atlantic 10 conference,” A-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade said. “Accepting VCU for membership was a decision made with pride and with confidence.”

VCU’s addition is the latest in a series of shake-ups for the conference. The Rams and the Bulldogs replace Temple and Charlotte, which will depart the conference for the 2013-14 season.

Though the Rams will add an additional program to the schedule next season, McGlade said as of yet, there are no plans to switch to a divisional format. However, she added, the spring meetings for athletic directors are next week and there will be “strategic discussions” about creating schedules and a potential divisional format. A potential switch from 16 to 18 conference games in a season is also on the agenda, McGlade said.

“It was very important for VCU from a student-athlete wellness perspective, to have the ability to participate in championships,” McGlade said. “We’re going to roll up our sleeves and address our schedules and we will put together the very best conference scheduling for next year as we can.”

McGlade hedged around the issue of future expansion for the Atlantic 10, instead speaking on the Rams’ addition. The league will be “keeping an eye” on conference realignment, Michael Graham, Xavier University president and Chair of the Atlantic 10 Council of Presidents said. He underlined McGlade’s focus on VCU.

“All I know right now is that we are extremely happy and we feel extremely good about our current membership,” McGlade said. “That’s really all for today.”

VCU’s men’s basketball team has made 11 trips to the NCAA tournament, four coming in the last six years, including a 2011 trip to the Final Four. The Colonials faced the Rams in the BB&T Classic last season, falling 75-60.

VCU is another strong addition to a league that saw its postseason success grow this year, when eight institutions nabbed postseason bids, more than all but two conferences. It was the fifth year in a row the A-10 earned at least three bids and multiple at-large bids into the NCAA tournament.

“This is really an important opportunity that’s in the best interest of our university,” VCU president Michael Rao said. “We’ve got to be looking at next steps in relation to national competitiveness and this is that next step.”

Postseason bids are a large factor behind both Butler and VCU’s respective moves. Both Butler and VCU are in “one-bid” leagues where traditionally, only the program that wins the conference tournament earns a NCAA tournament bid.

The additions of the Bulldogs and Rams increase the Atlantic 10’s visibility, expanding it in two television markets. Butler will add the Indianapolis television market, ranked as the 26th largest media market, and VCU combines with Richmond for the Richmond, Va. market that ranks as the 57th largest in the country. Nine A-10 universities are already situated in the top 25 media markets in the country and last season, the A-10 saw its men’s basketball teams play in televised contests more than 350 times, a record for the league’s 36-year history.

“Once again, the A-10 has demonstrated that its place and commitment among the premier basketball conferences in the country is secure. Today’s addition of VCU to the Atlantic 10 is not only a significant boon to our basketball programs, but the reputation of the Rams’ athletic program as a whole gives our teams and fans across the board another exciting rival in close proximity,” GW athletic director Patrick Nero said in a release. “Congrats to the Atlantic 10 and Commissioner McGlade on yet another strong addition.”

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