Load up your SmartTrips, because it’s official: the Patriots are coming to the Atlantic 10.
The league announced George Mason’s addition, after the news broke last night, today. It will join the league in all sports starting July 1.
“I am honored and excited to welcome George Mason to the Atlantic 10 conference. They are a perfect fit for our league with world-class academic programs and a nationally successful intercollegiate athletic program,” A-10 commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade said in a release. “The addition of [George] Mason further strengthens our footprint, enhances our brand and will allow us to continue to build on our national prominence and success in men’s basketball and all sports.”
The Patriots are the newest faces among an often-changing cast of A-10 characters. The shake-up started with the announced departures of Temple and Charlotte, which 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 will likely pay $1 million in early exit fees to leave the Colonial Athletic Association in favor of the A-10, a switch VCU made last year. Their men’s basketball (19-14) team is currently competing in the College Basketball Invitational and will host Houston in the quarterfinals tonight.
“Our partnership with the Atlantic 10 is one that we have considered carefully and we have concluded with confidence that the time is right to join the A-10,” George Mason president Ángel Cabrera said. “We are confident that our new partnership with the A-10 is critical to helping us build on our past with optimism for a future that influences the landscape of the national capital region and to new markets introduced to us through this valuable relationship with colleges and universities in the A-10.”
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 is now with 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.