Butler leaving Horizon League for Atlantic 10
By CLIFF BRUNT
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Butler hasn't been the little school that can for a long time.
The team that was the NCAA national runner-up two years running is taking its David vs Goliath act a step up in class, leaving the Horizon League and joining the Atlantic 10 beginning with the 2013-14 season. Butler president James Danko made the announcement in a news conference on Wednesday.
Butler thrilled college basketball fans as the small Indiana school that pulled off upset after upset in both the 2010 and 2011 NCAA tournaments. The Bulldogs lost to Duke in the 2010 national title game when Gordon Hayward's half-court heave bounced off the rim in Indy. The cold-shooting Bulldogs then lost to Connecticut in the 2011 championship game.
The Atlantic 10 has had 41 at-large NCAA selections the past 20 years, more than any conference outside of the Big Six, and has had at least three NCAA tournament teams each of the past five years.
"Historically, you look at the number of at-larges, number of teams that have advanced in the tournament, the number of teams that have advanced in postseason play, the A-10 has certainly had a lot more teams in that boat," Butler coach Brad Stevens said.
Butler traditionally has played a difficult non-conference schedule to compensate for the relatively weak Horizon League slate and position itself for at-large NCAA bids. Now, the conference schedule will be more difficult.
"I do think that any time you're talking about a league that has gotten multiple bids on a very consistent basis, that means there's a lot of good teams, and that means you're not held to a perfect standard throughout the season," Stevens said. "That being said, you're going to have to play awfully good to be in consideration for an at-large bid in either league."
Butler fills a void left by Temple, which will join the Big East in all sports other than football in 2013-14. Temple's football team will begin playing football in the Big East this fall.
"It truly is a privilege and an honor to welcome Butler University as the newest member to the Atlantic 10," league Commissioner Bernadette McGlade said. "The decision to accept Butler was an easy one and a unanimous one. Butler is a strong institution located within a very important geographic footprint in the Atlantic 10."
The Horizon League already had 10 members, with Green Bay (approximately 400 miles) being Butler's longest trip in conference play. In the A-10, the Bulldogs would travel regularly to Charlotte, N.C., Massachusetts, Fordham in New York City, Rhode Island, St. Joseph's in Philadelphia and Virginia. The only team farther west is Saint Louis.
Danko said higher travel costs were considered, but added that the school will have its largest pool of incoming students - meaning more revenue - in its history.
The move affects all Butler sports except football, which will remain in the Pioneer League. The Atlantic 10 does not have women's golf, so Butler will seek a league for that sport.
A-10 officials are reportedly interested in adding two other schools -- George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth. McGlade, who said the conference has been considering expansion for the past 20 months, ruled nothing out.
"At this point and time, we're excited, we're celebrating Butler joining the league," she said. "As far as future membership decisions right now, all of that is really fluid right now. It would be premature to be able to say definitively today that there will be no more membership decisions."
The expanded reach of the league is unlikely to affect Butler's approach to finding players. Stevens is known for scouring Indiana for overlooked players, fitting them into his system and surrounding them with athletic players from other places.
"I don't think we can change the core of our recruiting philosophy," Stevens said.
Horizon League Commissioner Jon LeCrone noted Butler's contribution to his conference's success over the years.
`'We are proud of the role the Horizon League played in providing a platform for Butler to significantly improve its athletics programs and achieve the highest level of national competitiveness in men's basketball," he said. "We are excited about the possibilities that lie ahead."
Updated May 2, 2012