ESPN is reporting that Xavier and Butler will depart the Atlantic 10 next season to join the Catholic 7, removing two of the A-10′s top programs from its ranks.
Dan Wetzel, of Yahoo Sports, seconds that report, adding that Dayton and Saint Louis could join the newly forming league in the coming years.
No programs have formally withdrawn from the Atlantic 10, a process that could cost a school $2 million if it gives less than a year’s notice. GW athletics communications executive director Brian Sereno said the athletics department will not comment on any speculation until a program’s departure became official.
The new league would officially begin July 1, and ESPN reports that the process is being expedited by the possibility of a lucrative media rights deal with Fox Sports Network, one estimated to be worth $3 million annually per school.
Over the first wave of conference realignment last year, the Atlantic 10 appeared to emerge as one of the strongest conferences out of the shake-up, adding VCU and Butler following the departure of Temple and Charlotte. But though initial speculation surrounding the Catholic 7 floated the idea of the A-10 becoming a 21-team league, recent discussion has leaned toward the possibility of the seven schools poaching Atlantic 10 members.
Athletic director Patrick Nero previously told The Hatchet that the conference was ready to address the potential loss of members should a university leave to join the A-10. The searches for VCU and Butler, he said, resulted in candidates beyond those two programs that could make valuable additions to the league.
But it’s unclear if the A-10 is prepared to address the potential departure of four programs. Should Xavier and Butler leave, it would remove two of the Atlantic 10′s top-tier programs, as well as weaken its Midwest ties. Those gaps would be exacerbated by the departures of Saint Louis and Dayton, as well. The potential depletion could weaken the A-10′s conference profile, with additional pressure on the league to fill open slots with strong programs.