Conference switch in the works?

In recent weeks, reports from ESPN and CBS led many to believe that Butler may switch athletic conferences within the next few years.

Butler could make the transition from the Horizon League to the Atlantic 10 conference and replace departing Temple.

The Owls of Temple are currently part of the A-10 in all sports except football.

For football, Temple is an associate member of the Mid-American Conference.

Temple is joining the Big East next season for football and all other sports the following year.

According to reports, Butler may likely be the team to fill the spot left by Temple in the A-10.

Butler would bring all of its athletic teams to the A-10 except for football, which is a member of the Pioneer Football League.

The change would go into effect beginning with the 2013-2014 school year.

Other schools that ESPN and CBS consider to be candidates for filling the A-10 vacancy are Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason.

If the crossover is made, Butler would be the second-smallest university in the league.

Butler would have more students than only St. Bonaventure, which has an enrollment of approximately 2,400.

Butler’s athletic programs would compete against schools with more than 20,000 students, such as Charlotte, George Washington University and the Massachusetts.

However, most of the schools in the A-10 have between 6,000 and 15,000 students.

The Butler athletics department declined to comment on conference affiliation or changes, other than Associate Athletic Director Jim McGrath saying that “we are members of the Horizon League.”

The move would likely benefit Butler’s men’s basketball team, which competed in back-to-back NCAA championship games in 2010 and 2011.

This season, the A-10 placed four teams in the NCAA tournament—Xavier, St. Bonaventure, Temple and Saint Louis. The Horizon League sent only Detroit to the Big Dance.

The Bulldogs would see an increase in competition and would have a traditional conference rival in Xavier.

Senior guard Rotnei Clarke has experience playing in a collegiate athletic conference more prominent than the Horizon League.

Clarke transferred from Arkansas—a member of the Southeastern Conference—last year and sat out this season with a year of eligibility remaining.

“It’s a cool thing being able to play in a power conference,” Clarke said.

The A-10 is not nearly as big as the SEC, but the A-10 tends to draw more attention from major media outlets—specifically ESPN—than the Horizon League.

Clarke said the media exposure he experienced during his time in the SEC was a good experience.

Clarke will graduate from Butler prior to any of Butler’s teams competing in A-10 play, but he said he thinks the men’s basketball team would still measure up in the new conference if they moved.

“I feel like we would compete in the A-10 for sure. No doubt about it,” Clarke said.

Like the men’s basketball team, the other squads would see an increase in competition but not necessarily unfamiliar opponents.

Men’s basketball, women’s soccer, baseball, men’s tennis and women’s tennis all played or will already play at least one A-10 team during this academic school year.

Baseball coach Steve Farley said both Xavier and Dayton, two teams from the A-10 that Butler has faced or will face this season, were in the conference when he took his current job more than 20 years ago.

Farley  also said he would be OK with the new competition, but he is wary of the way the conference is spread out.

“Fifteen-hour bus rides to places like Massachusetts, Rhode Island and upstate New York don’t excite me that much,” Farley said.

Volleyball coach Sharon Clark said she is not familiar with the A-10 but thinks it would be a little tougher from a traveling aspect as well.

As for football, scholarships are available for players in the A-10 but not in the PFL.

Reports indicate that if Butler jumped to the A-10, its football team would remain in the PFL.


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