By: Chris bendel – Sports Editor
In the constantly evolving landscape of college athletics, filled with movement between conferences dictated by programs jockeying for TV revenues and national exposure, the Atlantic 10 has positioned itself as a men’s basketball mainstay for years to come.
The A-10 benefitted from its participating members being almost exclusively focused on basketball when deciding the future of the conference, as the A-10 does not offer football for its member schools.
In 1976, the conference opened its doors with eight member institutions. Only three original members remain, including Duquesne, George Washington and Massachusetts. The conference’s active growth – the A-10 currently has 14 institutions with basketball programs – while staying within its footprint has shielded it from the forces of power conferences able to dismantle the “non-BSC” leagues.
Not even the now defunct Big East conference survived conference re-alignment, but the Atlantic 10 has.
Recent decision making instills confidence from A-10 fans and member institutions in conference leadership. A clear plan exists. The A-10 understands its identity as a basketball-centric, East-Coast conference with a touch of Midwestern flavor.
The conference has recruited schools with recent basketball success and within the conference’s footprint.
After absorbing recent losses of Xavier, Temple and Charlotte from the conference, the A-10 has emerged just as strong as three years ago, if not stronger.
Active in replacing the traditional basketball powers, the A-10 added VCU in 2012, George Mason in 2013, and Davidson in 2014. It seems the moves were made with both basketball and viewership in mind.
Davidson’s presence immediately replaces the void in the North Carolina market, which opened up with Charlotte’s departure in 2013, and the additions of VCU and George Mason bolster the established Virginia audience.
These moves adhere to a sustainable and focused model of member additions before them.
The trajectory of growth in the Midwest began in 1995 when both UD and Xavier entered the conference, expanding the A-10’s footprint to include Ohio. With Saint Louis becoming an active member in 2005, the conference established a true Midwestern reach.
The A-10 is now poised to capitalize on recent success and growth.
Announced men’s conference tournament locations of Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. in 2017 and 2018 fit the A-10’s market and prove that venues home to professional teams value the conference’s brand of basketball.
Further, after putting six teams in the NCAA tournament in 2013, media outlets rewarded the conference with a record number of national TV games.
The A-10 boasts 96 total television games for the 2014-15 basketball season, 75 of which will be seen on national TV, according to the conference website.
The conference’s three established media partners, ESPN, CBS Sports and NBCSN, offer primetime exposure for the league’s men’s basketball schedule and will provide sustainable contract revenue through the 2020-21 season.
The conference inked an 8-year TV deal beginning with the 2013-14 season. Combined, the three national partners have 200 million subscribers with 33.3 million television viewers directly in states with an A-10 program, according to the conference website.
In short, every indicator points to the A-10’s continued upward momentum for the foreseeable future.