Official – VCU Leaving CAA for A10

From VCU Athletics:

RICHMOND, Va. (May 15, 2012) – Virginia Commonwealth University announced today it will join the Atlantic 10 Conference effective July 1, 2012.

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.”

Other members of the Atlantic 10 Conference are the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of Dayton, Duquesne University, Fordham, George Washington University, La Salle University, the University of Massachusetts, the University of Rhode Island, the University of Richmond, St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph’s University, Saint Louis University, Temple University and Xavier University. Butler University will join the conference in 2013-2014.

Matt has been reporting on VCU sports for Ram Nation since 2007 with a focus on news, photos, and feature stories.