Another crazy (or brilliant) conference expansion idea: East meets West

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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.

Who’s in?

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About Author

Mat Shelton-Eide has been involved in college athletics since 2007, starting as a co-founder of VCURamNation.com where he covered the Rams all the way to Houston as the one-time CAA darling shocked the hoops world with a historic run to the Final 4. He has worked within two Atlantic 10 athletic departments, first as a graduate assistant in the VCU Sports Information Department during the '09-'10 basketball season, then after receiving his M.Ed. from VCU's Center for Sport Leadership, as a ticketing and marketing intern in the University of Richmond's athletic department during the inaugural season of Richmond's Robins Stadium, months before the Spiders 2011 Sweet 16 run.

8 Comments

    • Mat Shelton-Eide on

      In this scenario they would likely be headed to the Patriot League. Let’s be honest, they have fielded consistently bad teams forever now, making just one NCAA tournament appearance since 1971 (that year being ’92…the year Leattner beat Kentucky on “the play”). Clearly Fordham is not having fun as an Atlantic 10 team, consistently drawing under 1,000 fans to their games. If we (and Fordham fans) are being honest, they’d be better off in a conference where they can actually win some games. I mean seriously, who likes losing and never making the tournament?

      • McGlade did a brilliant job of landing Davidson but she needs to keep up the momentum. Wichita State would have been a good addition. Your thoughts on East and West make much better sense than anyone going to the AAC where anyone who could get out would go at the drop of a hat. The A-10 is a good conference. The Bonnie’s stepped up, Fordham should leave. Dayton, Davidson, URI, VCU can’t carry the non-conference banner. The rest need to keep amping up their commitment.

  1. Think it is a great idea. The premise is totally accurate. Dayton, VCU, URI or someone is going to get an offer and the A 10 will suffer. A proactive move to create a viable attractive league for advertisers and recruits is both necessary and smart. A meeting of the East and West is a snappy idea.

  2. The WCC is stable. With the exception of BYU, which was known to be a possible temp from the get-go, none of the other schools have anywhere else to go. In fact, there might be future additions like Grand Canyon, which doesn’t have anywhere else upward to go, either.

  3. Yeah, pretty interesting idea. A complete mesh of the NCAA’s two best mid-major CBB conferences. Good point about the dangers of remaining idle in the age of conference realignment. I go to Duquesne and I’m not even offended; I think we’d reign over the NEC if this idea ever came to fruition.

  4. It’s a crazy idea, but I do like the creativity. It would possibly make sense if we were only talking men’s basketball, but can you imagine GW’s women’s softball team traveling out to Portland or Santa Clara for a game? It makes no sense in terms of money. I don’t even know of it makes sense in terms of money for men’s basketball. I have been an advocate of Big East expanding and taking in Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, but once again it makes sense for only one sport, men’s basketball.

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