University of Richmond Spider’s Athletic Director Jim Miller appeared on ESPN950′s Hardly Working with Greg Burton yesterday, and by all accounts virtually rolled out the red carpet for a VCU entry into the Atlantic 10. A10, Butler, VCU, and Mason fans had speculated for months on how conference realignment would shake out for each respective party. After Butler officially announced their decision, all signs point to VCU, and possibly even George Mason doing the same. Here are some highlights from Miller’s interview.
On money: “The biggest misconception in all this conference realignment discussion is the comment that it’s all about the money…It’s about competing at the highest level they can compete at…We’re about providing opportunities to compete at the highest level…Everybody talks about VCU leaving money on the table, yeah they would, and it’s tough, tough in a public school situation to leave money on the table even though you think you’re going to earn more later…But do you know how much we’re talking about? We’re talking just about 4% of the athletic budget. A million bucks is a lot of money but when you’re budgets $25 million and you’re making the decision not based on ‘gee it’s all about the money’ you’re making the decision about competing at the highest level you can compete…We were willing to risk failure in that quest for success. We want to compete at the highest and most successful level we can compete.”
When asked about joining the A10 themselves, and the step up in competition possibly negatively effecting UofR: “We didn’t make a decision about a conference about ‘will it get us in the tournament more often?’, that’s kind of a secondary thing. We want to compete at the highest level, and I’m sure that Butler, when they made their decision, wanted to compete at the highest level. And I’m sure that everything you read in the paper about VCU and George Mason thinking about what they want to do, I’m sure that’s a part of their deal. Do they perceive that this is a good move to compete at the highest level possible?”
When asked if he thought VCU and George Mason are going to join the Atlantic 10: ”Let me say this, first of all I don’t have any inside knowledge that’s it’s going to happen or not going to happen, I know there’s a lot of talk about it, but when the A10 started looking at this thing probably two years ago…Butler was an important target, they played in the national championship game two years in a row, they were an important target and we thought it was important for them to join us. Once we got going with that we just said, you know, we already believe that we are in the last 6, 8, 10 years…we have consistently been the No.1 non-BCS basketball conference when you measure by power ratings and all that…actually we’ve been better than some of the BCS conferences…how can we make us unquestionably the best basketball conference in America that’s not primarily a football conference, and we look at what the Big East was when they first started out you know many many, I don’t know, 20-30, whenever it was, long time ago… that everybody said ‘man they are the basketball conference’ and we said…that’s what we want to do. It’s not about poaching schools from one league or a different league or grab this grab this, we said we want to be the best league out there and who might want to join us to help make that happen. We haven’t issued a bunch of invitations out to people…we just said who makes sense, and we made it known that that’s what our goal was, and that’s what we wanted to do….If one of those two schools or both those schools that you just mentioned want to be a part of that exciting adventure, I’d hope they would apply. Because I think that’s where we’re gonna end up and that’s where our goal is. Do I think they’ll do it? I really honestly don’t know, I imagine the decisions are being made now, they’ve collected a lot of information.”
On Big East uncertainty possibly effecting A10 in the future: ”We think that the Atlantic 10, particularly if it gets even better than it is right now, if a couple of schools join…the better we are, we may be more attractive. We’re not trying to put a cap on how good we can be.”
On ODU moving to CUSA: “Old Dominion I understand is most likely to accept a bid to Conference USA, I think that’s immanent from everything I’ve heard, that they’re making an announcement on Monday. I haven’t heard that from any ODU folks, but that’s what I understand is right around the corner.”