Previously, I chatted about the potential roster that the Loyola Ramblers could suit up for the 2022 – 2023 NCAA season. Now I want to understand how Loyola Chicago got into the Atlantic10 and why it’s a great fit for the entire Rambler Athletic program.
I’ll have to state the obvious first because it is the foundation to the A10 Loyola link, Loyola University Chicago is a private Jesuit university located in Chicago. When schools contemplate moving conferences, athletics are important and winning definitely helps but there are non-athletic factors considered as well. Here is the current Atlantic10 school makeup: of fourteen teams ten are private, six are catholic and three Jesuit. Atlantic10 has a massive difference in school identity than Loyola’s previous conferences MVC and Horizon league. If you’re wondering why this could matter, take a look at the new Big East. In that conference, all schools are private except one. There is also a striking similarity in the campus locations of Atlantic10. Many are located in large metro areas, I might need help finding the Bonnies or Minutemen but the majority have a skyline I can point out. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, the A10 schools have a basketball school mindset. This focus on basketball is key to the recent success for the Rambler program but as well success is present in both Men’s and women’s soccer and of course the Men’s Volleyball program national titles. Showing a well rounded athletic program is key to learning about the investment an athletic department and athletic director give to the school. A key remark from Saint Joseph’s University President Dr. Mark C. Reed, who serves as the chair of the A-10 Presidents Council.
“Accepting Loyola University Chicago was not a difficult decision for the Presidents Council due to its similarity with our member institutions, including the value Loyola places on conducting successful athletics in harmony with a nationally recognized, broad-based educational profile,” said Dr. Mark C. Reed.
Now I want you to see how invested and connected Loyola’s current athletic director Steve Watson is to the Atlantic10 conference.
INSIDE ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT
How did this conference change come about? When the change was announced in Gentile, Men’s Basketball coach Drew Valentine had only recently been informed. So was there a massive, secret discussion going on? I truly have no insight but let me take you on a trip that you might not have realized. It all connected to Loyola’s current Athletic Director Steve Watson, who held the same position at St. Bonaventure from 2007 to 2014. Watson held this position until leaving for Loyola with 7 years experience in the A10 under Steve Watson. I bet he was looking for a way back with the Ramblers. Watson got time to know current A10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade. So when you look at the cards Loyola has been dealt, I would say for right now we are holding a pretty good hand. Here’s a key remark from Athletic Director Watson on Loyola joining the A10.
“Making this transition will enhance the experience for our world-class student-athletes, and they, along with our coaches and staff, are thrilled to be joining the Atlantic 10 Conference, which is one of the most prestigious leagues in college athletics,” Watson said.
I mentioned earlier that the Atlantic10 conference is a basketball focused conference which aligns with Loyola’s vision of the last few years. Loyola’s athletic department has been steadily improving the basketball program both on and off the court. Some key new initiatives over the last few years are the great post-game highlights posted to all social media, renaming and relocating the student section and the new practice facility. Targeted upgrades have been key in marketing to the prospective high school recruits and then increasing student and alumni attendance at Gentile arena. By getting the crowd to the games and building a roster of players and coaches that have called Loyola home over the last 5 years has made a massive boom to the Rambler pride in Rogers Park. The impact the athletic department has put toward the program is not over yet and I know joining the Atlantic 10 conference is one of the key steps in this Loyola Ramblers basketball journey.
— All quotes taken from Loyola’s press release, link to the press release here https://loyolaramblers.com/news/2021/11/16/general-loyola-athletics-to-join-atlantic-10-conference-in-2022-23-academic-year.aspx