VCU likely to keep playing ODU but other CAA rivalries in jeopardy

Jeff Eisenberg
May 18, 2012

In the three days since VCU announced it was joining the Atlantic 10 next season, Shaka Smart has reached out to each of the Rams' in-state CAA foes in hopes of continuing the rivalries as part of the non-league slate.

So far the results have been mixed.

Smart said Friday he's "98 or 99 percent sure" the Rams will begin a series with former CAA rival Old Dominion next season in Norfolk. He has met more resistance in talks with George Mason, James Madison and William & Mary, partially because their schedules for next season are mostly done and partially because they're unsure if they want to continue playing VCU.

"This is a bold move that we at VCU have made," Smart said. "I think there's certainly some people that don't like the move we made, but I think the people down at Old Dominion understand the importance of the rivalry we have with them. I'm almost positive we're going to be able to continue that and play this year. They said it would have to be at their place, so we're going to accommodate that."

If George Mason or the other Virginia CAA schools decide to turn down VCU's offer, it certainly wouldn't be the first time conference realignment jeopardized a regional rivalry.

Kansas has refused to schedule Missouri for the foreseeable future now that the Tigers are SEC-bound. The future of the West Virginia-Pittsburgh rivalry is also in doubt. And Baylor women's coach Kim Mulkey made it abundantly clear she won't schedule Texas A&M once the Aggies leave for the SEC by hearkening back to the divorce she previously endured.

"My feeling is this," she said. "If a man wants to divorce me and says our relationship has no value to him, and then he asks me if he can sleep with me, the answer is: No!"

Smart is hoping his former in-state rivals are more receptive than that.

"Some of the other schools aren't quite sure whether they want to play us, and that's understandable," Smart said. "People are a lot further along with their schedules than we are because they didn't just change leagues. Longterm, my perception is we will be able to keep some or all of our rivalries going with CAA teams in the state of Virginia, and that's certainly my hope."