A little over a year ago I wrote about a crazy and/or brilliant conference expansion idea that used an EPL-style relegation system to expand the league to 20 teams broken into two divisions, or truth be told, tiers in this particular conference. Some loved the idea, others hated it. Some loved to hate it.
Well a year later, here comes another idea to hate!: Crazy or brilliant expansion idea No.2.
Note: Since my last article was published, easily the top available team, Wichita State, came off the board, recently accepting an offer to join the American Athletic Conference. I can guarantee you they won’t be the last team to see something like that happen, the next in line perhaps coming from within our own A-10 conference with a move of a VCU or Dayton to the likes of the AAC or Big East (or both), both of which would be huge blows to the Atlantic 10.
As a VCU grad who has been on both sides of that movement, seeing the Rams left behind in the destruction of the Metro and then later seeing them doing the leaving, departing the now decimated CAA for the A-10, I can assure you that life comes at you fast when it comes to conference realignment and if you ain’t the league moving forward, you’re the league spinnin’ wheels.
You don’t want to be the later.
So let’s move forward with this idea already, where Atlantic meets Pacific, East meets West…where two become one…where we get a little bi-coastal. Who’s ready to get weird with me? Here’s the plan:
Atlantic 10, meet the West Coast Conference.
The Plan: Two 10-team divisions, one East, one West in a conference hug of some 2,921.3 miles of America, a conference that makes Conference USA look compact in comparison.
Atlantic Division: Dayton, VCU, Rhode Island, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, UMass, George Washington, George Mason, Davidson, Saint Joseph’s
Pacific Division: Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, BYU, Saint Louis, San Francisco, Loyola Marymount, San Diego, Pacific, Portland, Santa Clara
How you make it cost effective: Travel costs are the immediate concern that likely comes to mind, but here’s how you make that a virtual non-issue: in olympic sports (aka non-revenue generating) you only play divisional games until the conference tournament/championships. Basketball on the other hand plays several inter-divisional games similar to the MLB. Dayton at Gonzaga sound fun? How about VCU hosting St. Mary’s in an NCAA tournament rematch on ESPN? Who’s ready for Phil Martelli versus 18,000 screaming Mormons when the Hawks play at BYU? Then for conference tournaments you can either go East Coast (Barclays), West Coast (Vegas anyone?) or meet somewhere fun in-between (New Orleans work for you guys?).
Why one in this case is better than two: Basketball butters the bread of these two leagues, but does it make sense for these two conferences to give up one guaranteed auto-bid for a shot at several at-large bids plus a higher league profile? In my opinion, hell yes it does. The reality is right now the top teams from both these conferences would jump at an offer at a shot at a bigger conference, meaning both the A-10 and WCC can remain complacent as they are slowly decimated (a la Tom Yeager of the once tough CAA) or they can make a move to strengthen their current position in an attempt to create as close to a power conference of their own as possible. So with that in mind, imagine those hypothetical conference matchups I just mentioned or even better, imagine a 10-team (or go to 12? more than 12?) basketball tournament in Chicago’s United Center featuring Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, BYU, Loyola Marymount, San Francisco, Dayton, VCU, Rhode Island, Saint Joseph’s and St. Bonaventure, or whoever are the top-five or six teams from each division. That’s a conference tournament that moves the needle. What’s more is this conference may be the first conference in history where there is no East Coast bias. This is a conference where a Bona fan from Olean, NY perhaps pays attention to a game taking place in Moraga, CA at 11PM EST on a work night.