It’s official: Butler and Xavier are leaving the Atlantic 10.
The two schools announced today that they will head to the new Big East, joining Creighton there next season.
“I wish Xavier University and Butler University all the best in their new conference,” A-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade said in a statement. “They are two outstanding universities with outstanding people; our partnership has been mutually beneficial and successful.”
The new league will begin officially July 1, and the conference has already agreed to a 12-year contract with Fox Sports, while its championship will remain at Madison Square Garden. The move removes two of the A-10’s most successful men’s basketball programs from its ranks and reduces the conference’s profile in the Midwest market.
“As a longtime strong A-10 member, Xavier’s departure is unfortunate. Butler’s departure is a byproduct of the chaotic conference realignment environment,” McGlade’s statement said. “BU’s association with the A-10 has been a fun ride this year; no regrets from the Atlantic 10 for providing a home for them during the 2012-13 season.”
Early exit fees from the A-10 are $2 million for Universities that give the league less than a year’s notice of their departure. Additionally, both Xavier and Butler will likely have to forfeit this year’s postseason revenue. But neither university is fazed, with Butler president James Danko telling ESPN that the Big East is an “ideal fit” for his school.
“It’s an endorsement of who we are,” Xavier president Reverend Michael Graham told ESPN, “and how we’ve gotten here, as well as where we can go next.”
A-10 fans, as well as the league’s remaining schools, are left to watch the conference’s response. Historically, the A-10 has answered program losses due to realignment well: Temple and Charlotte were replaced this season by VCU and Butler.
Athletic director Patrick Nero said in January that the conference was ready to address the potential loss of members should a university leave to join the Catholic 7. The searches for VCU and Butler, he said, resulted in candidates beyond those two programs that could make valuable additions to the league.
He also asked for patience as the league looks to fill the gaps. Without explicitly discussing the pending departure of Xavier and Butler, Nero said that the A-10 was ready to address depletion of its ranks.
“As a conference, we anticipated this move and are prepared to proactively move forward. The A-10 is strong – we have 16 basketball teams participating in the postseason and will focus on them right now,” McGlade’s statement said. “NCAA Postseason is an exciting time not to be overshadowed by conference realignment.”
The onus is now on the A-10 to replace outgoing members with equally strong candidates so the league’s national profile – at an all-time high with nine postseason men’s basketball bids this year – doesn’t suffer a blow.
Butler, which fell in the semifinal round of the A-10 championship to Saint Louis, earned an NCAA tournament bid this season after finishing with a 26-8 overall record. Xavier fell to Saint Joseph’s in the first round of the A-10 tournament this year, failing to advance to postseason play, the first time in seven years it didn’t earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. Last season, the Musketeers traveled to the Sweet Sixteen, but posted a 17-14 overall record this season.
This article was updated March 21, 2013 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly stated that athletic director Patrick Nero said in January that the conference would look to address losses if members left for the A-10. The conference would address losses to the Catholic 7. We regret this error.