Updated May 2, 2012 at 1:32 p.m.
Butler will join the Atlantic 10 July 1, 2013, the league announced Wednesday, confirming months of speculation that the Bulldogs would become the A-10’s newest members.
Butler fields 17 of the A-10’s 21 championship sports and will enter league competition in the 2013-14 season. The Bulldogs will replace Temple when the Owls depart the conference to join the Big East in 2013.
“It truly is a privilege and an honor to welcome Butler University,”A-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade said. “The decision to accept Butler University was an easy one and a unanimous one.”
Butler’s addition isn’t the definitive end to changes in the A-10’s landscape. VCU and George Mason remain on the list of potential additions to the league, and CBSSports.com reported Tuesday that Charlotte will likely leave the Atlantic 10 and is considering a move to Conference USA once it adds a football program in 2013.
McGlade said in a media teleconference that the A-10 feels it is in a “position of strength” with the addition of Butler, and added that it is “premature” to make predictions about future expansion at this time.
“At this point, today, we’re excited, we’re celebrating, Butler is joining the league. As far as future membership decisions, right now all of that is really fluid at this time,” McGlade said. “We could go up by one, we could go up by two, we could go down.”
The A-10’s commissioner also spoke to the possibility of changes to the league’s scheduling. A switch to divisional play “has always been a topic,” McGlade said, and added it would likely be discussed at the league’s upcoming spring meetings.
Also under consideration is an increase in the number of league contests each program would play, McGlade said.
“Currently, we are at 16, and, as you know, many of the big six leagues have gone to 18, so that is on the table for discussion as well,” McGlade said.
Butler’s men’s basketball team will become the seventh Atlantic 10 program with at least one appearance in the NCAA Final Four. In total, the Bulldogs count 11 trips to the NCAA tournament, including back-t0-back championship appearances in two of the last three years. This season, Butler failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament but extended its season with a College Basketball Invitational bid.
The Bulldogs are a powerful addition to a conference that saw its men’s basketball programs increase in strength this season. The Atlantic 10 saw eight institutions nab postseason bids this year, 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.
“Butler’s program has been among the elite programs in the country in recent years, having advanced to the NCAA championship game in back-to-back years in 2010 and 2011,” GW head coach Mike Lonergan said in a release. “For us, to be able to compete in conference play against the level of competition that [Butler head] coach Brad Stevens and his team brings, is very exciting to our players and staff.”
The addition also expands the A-10’s visibility in the Midwest, joining Dayton, Saint Louis and Xavier. Butler will add the Indianapolis television market, ranked as the 26th largest media market, to the league’s media footprint – one that already situates nine Atlantic 10 universities in the top 25 media markets in the country.
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. The addition of Butler and its media market will likely increase the number of televised games for the A-10.
“The Atlantic 10 Conference has always been a premier basketball conference in the country, and today with the addition of Butler, that fact is underscored once again,” GW athletic director Patrick Nero said in a release. “Not only is Butler a welcome addition to our league, but this move exemplifies once again why the George Washington University is proud to be part of the A-10.”