The Colonials are finally getting a crosstown conference rival: George Mason is coming to the Atlantic 10.
Steven Goff, The Washington Post’s beat reporter for the Patriots, tweeted that the program will join the A-10 effective July 1. His tweet came on the heels of press releases released by both George Mason and the Atlantic 10 touting “major announcements” tomorrow.
The addition is the latest in a series of changes for the A-10 amid the shaky world of conference realignment. It started with the announced departures of Temple and Charlotte, who were then replaced by Butler and VCU. But the Big East break-up gave rise to the recent developments that will see the Bulldogs and Xavier depart the Atlantic 10 next season.
George Mason was a founding member of the Colonial Athletic Association, its current league, in 1985, and will rejoin VCU, another former C.A.A. member, in the A-10. Early exit fees from the C.A.A. total $1 million, the same as the A-10.
The Patriots’ men’s basketball team is currently competing in the College Basketball Invitational, and will host Houston in the quarterfinals Monday. The team has a 19-14 overall record this season. George Mason last made the NCAA tournament in the 2010-11 season. In 2006, it made the Final Four.
The Patriots also bring an added edge to competition with the Colonials: in addition to being a District-rival, former GW assistant head coach Roland Houston now coaches for George Mason. His departure from the Colonials, following the fire of former head coach Karl Hobbs, was one of a chain of cascading events that ultimately resulted in Erik Copes playing for the Patriots instead of GW. At the time, Copes was regarded as the best recruit Hobbs ever brought to Foggy Bottom.
In the end, the quick addition of George Mason to the A-10′s ranks is hardly surprising. Athletic director Patrick Nero previously told The Hatchet that the league was ready to answer decisively should programs depart. The searches for VCU and Butler, he said, created a short list of other potential additions, a list George Mason was long rumored to lead.