By Brendan Bond—Loyola Phoenix sports editor
Many stories end with the butler committing the murder. But now, can observers say that Butler will be the one that kills the Horizon League?
Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but the truth is that the Horizon League will suffer if Butler moves to the Atlantic 10 conference.
Reports have indicated Butler is considering the move.
This change would affect all of Butler’s sports, but men’s basketball would see the most positive effects from the move by far.
The move could potentially be seen as Butler changing conferences for basketball reasons.
Butler is clearly the class of the Horizon League even if it did not win the league this year.
The Bulldogs still attract the majority of the national attention the Horizon League receives.
Also, the competition and strength of the league would be better, meaning that Butler would have a better chance of making the NCAA Tournament even if it does not receive the conference’s automatic bid.
It is easy to see that a move to a more powerful conference would benefit Butler, especially with the school’s visibility and ability to keep coach Brad Stevens at the school.
So far, Stevens has turned down overtures from other schools—including Illinois most recently—but playing in a bigger conference would help ensure that he is willing to stay at Butler.
A move to the A-10 might make sense for men’s basketball, but the other Butler sports programs might not enjoy the jump as much.
Instead of being contenders in the Horizon League, the teams might be relegated to middle-of-the-pack status in the bigger, stronger A-10.
The other athletic programs at Butler would not suffer most, though.
The greatest suffering from a Butler move would be experienced by the other nine schools in the Horizon League.
None of those schools have experienced the national exposure Butler has.
In the world of college athletics, the big-money sports are football and men’s basketball. Strong seasons by other squads like Green Bay’s women’s basketball team or Loyola of Chicago’s men’s volleyball team go unnoticed.
With no Division I football teams in the conference, the Horizon League becomes a men’s basketball conference.
Anything that affects men’s basketball also affects the Horizon League as a whole.
That’s why Butler is so important to the league as a whole.
No other school has the tradition or past success (Loyola’s 1963 national championship notwithstanding) as Butler.
Those factors put the Horizon League on the map and have separated it from conferences such as the Big Sky, Summit and Ohio Valley.
If Butler leaves, the appeal to cover Horizon League contests will fade from the major networks, particularly ESPN.
Coaches will have a more difficult time attracting top recruits without the benefit of that exposure.
At Loyola, the biggest crowd of the season for men’s basketball is always at the Butler game.
Although Loyola is rebuilding the inner-city rivalry with DePaul, Butler remains Loyola’s biggest rival.
Butler is the standard for the other schools to match, not only in men’s basketball but also in other sports.
The Bulldogs are the class of the Horizon League athletically.
Butler might serve itself well by moving to the A-10, but the trickle-down effect of that move might cripple the Horizon League.