Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Fallout may improve Xavier's competition


Atlantic 10 reaction

By Dustin Dow
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NEW YORK - In the end, the Atlantic 10 Conference might benefit from Big East expansion, contrary to original conjecture six months ago.

League presidents voted Tuesday to add Charlotte and Saint Louis, the only two remaining non-football schools in Conference USA, for the 2005-06 season.

No official announcement was made.

Atlantic 10 commissioner Linda Bruno was not available for comment, but league spokesman Ray Cella said, "Our presidents' council has asked for further exchange of information with potential members, and we expect a decision shortly."

For Xavier, an A-10 member since 1995, this is the next best scenario to joining the Big East.

Charlotte and Saint Louis are well-respected, well-supported basketball programs. They'll increase the number of Atlantic 10 teams from 12 to 14.

Charlotte is a perennial NCAA Tournament contender, and Saint Louis is building a new arena.

Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said A-10 teams initially were discussed during his conference's expansion planning.

"But as we surveyed what it was we wanted to do, we began to talk to Conference USA. Conference USA saw this as an opportunity to reconfigure itself as a pure, Southern-based football conference," he said. "So when we saw that we might be able to fill our needs ... and we would not have to reach out to other conferences and be disruptive, to me it was the best choice that we could possibly make."

Tuesday's fallout was not limited to the Big East and A-10. Conference USA also is reshaping itself.

With its league all but torn apart, C-USA turned to the Mid-American Conference and Western Athletic Conference to stay viable. Mid-American members Marshall and Central Florida were added as members. WAC institutions Rice, Southern Methodist and Tulsa also were brought on board.

In response to the loss of three schools, the WAC is adding Sun Belt Conference programs Utah State and New Mexico State in 2005.

The Mountain West Conference is considering going after C-USA's Texas Christian University to increase to nine teams, or adding four of the remaining six WAC members to form a 12-team conference, which would be eligible for a football championship game.

New lineups

Here is what the Atlantic 10 and Conference USA will look like in the future (unless there are more changes):

Atlantic 10
Charlotte
Dayton
Duquesne
Fordham
George Washington
La Salle
Massachusetts
Rhode Island
Richmond
St. Bonaventure
Saint Joseph's
Saint Louis
Temple
Xavier

Conference USA
Central Florida
East Carolina
Houston
Marshall
Memphis
Rice
Southern Methodist
Southern Mississippi
Texas Christian
Tulane
Tulsa
UAB

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E-mail ddow@enquirer.com




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