One day after CBSSports.com reported VCU and George Mason have told the Atlantic-10 they're interested in joining the league by 2013, the CAA went public in an effort to downplay that story.
First, George Mason issued a statement denying officials have had "formal discussions" about joining the A-10 and VCU followed with a similar statement insisting that its board had not met regarding conference realignment. Then CAA commissioner Tom Yeager called the potential departure of two of the league's most prestigious basketball programs a "non-story" during a conference call to address the topic.
Yeager said he felt confident both VCU and George Mason would be members of the CAA next season after the subject of conference realignment came up Monday morning during a previously scheduled conference call among the league's athletic directors.
"Both schools indicated there are absolutely no truth to the rumors as well as others that have been bandied about in the media the past couple weeks," Yeager said. "They're not exploring other options. In combination with other conversations we've had over the last couple months and weeks, they aren't looking to go anywhere else, nor have they had any other offer that would turn their heads. So we didn't hold hands and take blood oaths or anything like that, but I take them at their word."
It's possible Yeager is correct to believe VCU and George Mason remain committed to the CAA, but there's definitely evidence to suggest the two schools have at least explored their options via back channels.
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First of all, George Mason's statement that it hasn't engaged in "formal discussions" with the A-10 is almost meaningless because such conversations at a public university are almost always done via intermediaries. Secondly, CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy has an excellent track record with his reporting regarding conference realignment issues. And third, Duquesne's president mentioned the A-10's plans for expansion in an email he sent his board of trustees when he explained why he was firing basketball coach Ron Everhart.
In addition to Butler, VCU and George Mason would be natural choices if the Atlantic-1o is seeking to expand to help lessen the impending loss of Temple to the Big East. The Rams and Patriots have both made Final Four appearances in the past six years and are regular contenders for the NCAA tournament.
A move to the A-10 would seem to be potentially attractive to either school since the Atlantic 10 annually earns three or four NCAA tournament bids. By contrast, the CAA had never received three NCAA tournament bids prior to last year and only had one team in the field this March.
Regardless of all that, Yeager seems confident his league will still be intact at this time next year.
"I'm sure without a doubt that had these discussions risen to the levels that have been reported, Bernie McGlade, the commissioner of the Atlantic 10, and I would have had a discussion about that," Yeager said. "I've been on the receiving and initiating end of those discussions. They're never particularly pleasant, but as a courtesy, they generally always occur."