Butler was attracted to the Atlantic 10 Conference for many reasons, but one of the biggest highlights was the potential effect on student-athletes’ overall academic experience.
“Academics is always our focus and priority,” President Jim Danko said in an interview last week. “We figured out that despite the further travel, our athletes will be spending more time on campus.”
The Bulldogs began studying, competing and cheering in the A-10 this year. The A-10 made an accelerated timetable possible after Butler decided to forgo an extra season in the Horizon Leauge.
“Ultimately it was in our best interest to reach an agreement with the Horizon League for immediate departure,” Athletic Director Barry Collier said. “We are grateful to the Atlantic 10 for welcoming us into the fold a year ahead of schedule.”
The administration does not expect the new athletic schedules to take students out of any additional classes compared to previous years.
This is mainly due to differences in the setup style of schedules in the new conference.
“The structure is different,” Collier said. “The A-10 does not play as many mid-week games as the Horizon League.”
He said this is a major reason that athletes will miss fewer classes.
“Whether you’re on a bus or in a plane, you’re still missing class, but that’s not the case when we don’t have the games during the week,” Collier said.
Sonya Hopkins, coordinator of academic support for student-athletes, said she doesn’t think this schedule will have any more of an adverse effect on students than any other scheduling formats they have previously endured.
“Our athletes are not going to miss the extensive amount of classes that people assume would be missed because of the destinations,” Hopkins said. “I think anytime you have something new, there’s going to be a level of excitement that just kind of infiltrates everything.
“But the bottom line is you’re expected to perform in the classroom no matter what.”
Collier also cites the experience of new places and the lessons that can be learned in these travels as two big factors attracting Butler to the conference.
“That is the kind of thing that can be very positive,” Collier said. “I think, ultimately, this will be better—a better experience for (our student-athletes).”
As a whole, the athletes will be traveling to and experiencing the nation’s capital and the financial center of the world.
“Those are two pretty big things,” Collier said. “If we don’t see beyond whether the ball goes in the hoop, you miss the big picture.”
Academically, the A-10 also poses a bigger challenge for Butler athletes.
The Horizon League named 743 student-athletes—98 from Butler— in its academic honor roll last spring, based on a 3.2 GPA requirement on a 4.0 scale.
Meanwhile, the A-10 named 1,369 students to its spring 2012 list, even with the increased requirement of a 3.5 GPA.
“One of the first things we see is that, academically, Butler is a great institution,” A-10 Commissioner Bernadette McGlade said in a press conference last spring. “Institutionally, they are a perfect fit for the league and bring a tradition of excellence in academics, athletics, integrity and personnel.”