GMU and VCU Reportedly in Talks to Join A10
According to reports that emerged over the weekend, VCU and George Mason could soon be on their way out of the CAA. Along with Butler, the two schools are already in discussions with the Atlantic 10 about joining the conference. Ruh-roh. Losing these schools would not be good for the CAA. Not good at all.
When I first heard of these potential moves, I assumed Mason and VCU were as good as gone. It seemed like a complete no-brainer. Both schools have unquestionably developed into very successful hoops programs and find themselves caught in a conference that appears to be driven by football at times. Neither school fields a football team and a move to the A10 would align them with schools sharing common athletic goals. Mainly, it would group them a bunch of other basketball first schools that aren’t flight risks if football conferences come calling. Schools like Xavier, St. Louis, St. Joseph’s, and St. Bonaventure have athletic programs driven by basketball. The CAA’s basketball profile has been on the rise for years, but it’s still a couple football moves away from erasing all the progress it’s made. If ODU, JMU, or Delaware make a jump for a better football set-up, the dominoes could start falling in a way that crushes the CAA. And that is a very real risk for GMU and VCU. Plus, while both the Rams and Patriots have gotten at large bids to the NCAA tourney in recent years, the A10 is a perennial multi-bid league.
After some more reflection however, I’m not sure it’s as much of a no-brainer as I originally thought. The A10 is a stronger basketball league top to bottom. As much as I love CAA hoops and think it is still underrated, it could be tougher for VCU and GMU to replicate their success in the A10. And VCU might get cold feet if it looks across town at its former CAA rival Richmond. The Spiders made the jump in the 90s and I’m not sure they’re better off for it. They’ve had some good years, but they’re not at the level of Xavier or other top A10 programs. VCU and Mason might be more comfortable sticking around in the CAA, a league they know they can win in any given year. But the risk of sticking around and being left behind for football, might force their hand. However you look at it, losing both programs would be a major blow to the CAA. It would likely force JMU’s hand and get them moving to find other football centered schools to align themselves with.