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VCU announces move to A-10

Virginia Commonwealth University announced today it will join the Atlantic 10 Conference effective July 1.

VCU examined several options, including remaining in its current conference home, the Colonial Athletic Association, and multiple factors led to the decision to leave the CAA and begin competing in the 21-sport league that is considered one of the best conferences in the country.

“VCU believes the A-10 represents the best opportunity to meet our long-term aspirations for national academic and athletic achievement,” said VCU President Michael Rao. “As a Division I, nationally competitive athletics program, it is critical that VCU seizes the opportunity to further elevate its athletics as it raises its overall academic profile as a national research university.”

Rao said that VCU’s Quest for Distinction strategic plan calls for excellence in everything the university does, including athletics – and moving to the Atlantic 10 Conference supports that quest for higher standards of excellence in VCU’s athletics program.

“The Atlantic 10 is a conference that gives us an opportunity to not only build our national brand, but also be associated with and compete against great institutions with tremendous profiles, both athletically and academically,” said David Benedict, VCU’s interim director of athletics. “We believe that the transition to the A-10 allows us to enhance the experience of all of our student-athletes.”

Rao and Benedict said the university’s 17-year membership in the Colonial Athletic Association was mutually beneficial to the CAA institutions and to VCU.  However, with tremendous changes in the college athletics landscape, affiliating with the Atlantic 10 Conference at this time best supports VCU’s long-term strategic goals.

“It is my privilege to be able to announce the addition of VCU to the Atlantic 10 Conference. It is an institution rich in tradition, academic excellence and broad-based athletic success,” said Atlantic 10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade. “One of the driving forces and priorities of the A-10 is to further enhance our national prominence in men’s basketball, build our brand and strengthen our current footprint. In addition to bringing in well-rounded sports programs across the board, VCU solidifies the A-10 academically and athletically.”

Rao said the financial considerations involved in the move to the A-10 are not insignificant, but that any financial analyses or projections prepared now are based on projections and highly variable factors. Offsetting these costs are several potential financial benefits to VCU by joining the A-10, including increased annual revenue sharing.

“VCU has made substantial investments in its athletics programs in recent years, and a strategic facilities plan is under development,” Rao said. “Moving to a major, basketball focused conference will enable VCU to build on its commitments and successes while also continuing its rise on the national sports scene.

“The addition of Virginia Commonwealth University to the Atlantic 10 further strengthens us as the nation’s premier basketball-driven conference,” said Father Michael J. Graham, Xavier University President and Chair of the Atlantic 10 Council of Presidents. “Accepting VCU’s application makes sense on two important levels — their emphasis on the quality of the student experience of their student-athletes, especially in the classroom, and their commitment to the highest levels of competition. Both ideals square perfectly with the identity of the A-10 and all of its member institutions.”

The move is a body blow to the CAA, which may also lose another state school, Old Dominion University, where school leaders are considering options for a move. George Mason University announced recently that it will remain a part of the league after also considering a move.

“This morning I was informed over the phone by President Michael Rao of VCU’s decision to withdraw from the CAA effective July 1, 2012. I was disappointed by the decision, but we are involved in a period of unprecedented change in collegiate athletics. There have been a lot of decisions made for all different kinds of reasons. Time will tell which ones were good,” CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager said regarding VCU’s departure.

“The CAA remains strong with outstanding universities that have excellent leadership, coaches and student-athletes. The current membership is committed to the growth of the league. We look forward to continuing our membership-related discussions, but will do so in a confidential matter,” Yeager said.

augusta free press
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