Published March 28, 2012
The Horizon League has been in existence since 1979. Likewise, Butler has been a member of the Horizon League since the conference’s inception into NCAA Division I athletics.
As the saying goes, the two go together like peas in a pod.
This may be changing in the near future, however.
Butler could make a jump to the Atlantic 10 conference as a replacement for Temple, according to a report released by ESPN two weeks ago.
Associate athletic director Jim McGrath said that the report is merely speculation at this point and that Butler has not even received a phone call about such a jump from those in charge of the A-10 conference.
McGrath also said he has heard that Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason are possible replacements for Temple in the conference.
Upon hearing this, the question Butler athletes, coaches and fans should not be asking is “Will Butler make the jump?”
Instead, they should be asking why Butler would make such a move.
The recent success of the Butler men’s basketball team would seem to be the most obvious reason to move.
One of the teams the Bulldogs have played in recent seasons is Xavier, a member of the A-10 and a Sweet 16 finalist of this season’s NCAA tournament.
Moving to the A-10 would provide Butler with tougher competition both in and out of conference play. This could give Butler a better chance at the NCAA tournament.
This was despite the fact that Valparaiso finished with a better winning percentage than both Xavier and St. Bonaventure, another A-10 team that cracked the tournament field.
Better competition and a greater chance at making the NCAA tournament field each season would also bring more exposure to the school as a whole.
Butler might also like to join a conference that has some lucrative ties to corporate partners such as Powerade and Geico.
The A-10 primarily features East Coast schools.
However, Xavier, Dayton and Saint Louis are all Midwestern schools within the conference.
Also, the average enrollment between the two conferences is separated by fewer than 600 students.
However, the negatives of a conference jump may outweigh the positives in this case.
The effect of moving to a bigger conference could be troublesome to Butler’s other athletic teams.
Many of Butler’s athletic teams have to battle and claw their way through both non-conference and Horizon League play, and a berth in their respective NCAA tournaments is a great achievement.
The A-10 is not the Big East or Big Ten, but it is not a cakewalk of a conference either.
Butler’s athletic teams would have to make their way past 13 other teams instead of nine to achieve at least a conference championship.
In sports with individual competitions, some Butler athletes could go from being near the top of the Horizon League to the middle of the A-10 pack thanks to better competition.
Situations like this could factor into the loss of potential athletic scholarships, costing current and future Butler students.
The fact that most of the A-10’s teams are on the East Coast also changes the amount of time Butler’s student-athletes would have to spend on the road.
Currently, Butler’s longest in-conference road trip is approximately 350 miles to Youngstown State. Eleven of the 14 teams in the A-10 are further from Butler than that.
Butler has stability in the Horizon League. If something is not broken, it does not need to be fixed.
Butler should not make this move simply for the money, increased recognition and benefit of the men’s basketball team.
If moving to the A-10 benefits Butler and all of its athletic teams, then the school should go for it. Otherwise, Butler should continue its tenure in the Horizon League.