The offer of conference membership from Big East officials to Butler University was no surprise to Butler officials.
In his first interview with The Collegian since the conference switch, President Jim Danko said university officials assessed a second possible move when deciding to move to the Atlantic 10 Conference.
The move to the A-10 did complicate the decision to move again.
“There was discussion about the potential of a Big East invitation,” Danko said. “In this day and age of conference realignment, we knew that it was a possibility.”
The group assessed a 20-percent chance that the Big East would extend an invitation to Butler to join the conference.
Before coming to Butler, Danko served as the School of Business dean at Villanova—a Big East institution. He said the conference splintering was “a long time coming.”
“I was aware of frustrations at those schools even before I stepped onto Butler’s campus,” Danko said. “It wasn’t completely new to me, and I certainly think my background knowledge of the situation helped along the way.”
When the FOX Sports Network made its way into the talks, the chances that Butler would join the conference went from 20 percent to about a “70, 80 or 100 percent chance,” he said.
“The sports network would be very lucrative for the schools involved, or it would at least cover a lot of their expenses,” Danko said. “The problem with these sorts of things is that you never have enough to cover your expenses.
“But the television deal definitely made the conference move more viable.”
As the face value of a potential conference move continued to increase, the deal turned into a “no-brainer.”
“You think about the exposure, the media deal, the realignment with other schools,” Danko said, “it was obvious. The league was turning into a perfect fit.”
Realigning the university with schools to which Butler aspires was another force in the decision.
Costs of the switch are uncertain, Danko said. The A-10 has not finalized Butler’s early exit fee.
“We know what the higher limits are, but nothing has been set in stone,” Danko said.
There are also expenses that come with starting a new conference. Since the new Big East is starting from scratch, there are a lot more costs the university will have to split with the other institutions.
The Butler Board of Trustees, Danko said, was quick to “universally back” a move to the Big East.
Danko said 95 percent of the reactions from the university community have been positive.
“Those with negative responses seem to be operating on a fear of athletics,” Danko said. “And you consider those responses and reactions, and you move forward.”
Danko said the move will continue to make Butler more recognizable on the national stage.
Athletic Director Barry Collier, men’s basketball coach Brad Stevens and Danko all agreed in the discussion about whether to move, that it would only be wise if the basketball team would continue to do well.
“We wouldn’t be doing this if we weren’t going to continue to perform among those other schools,” Danko said. “We were only going to do it if we were going win.”