The Atlantic Ten is a gig I'd love to have. If the conference can play its cards right, it could end up as the dominant non-bcs conference on the eastern seaboard. Just as easily, the A10 could be flushed out of the future high major equation and end up a small conference of tiny private schools who can only watch as its once great flagships sail to the American East,CAA or Conference-USA.
Becuase the future of the Atlantic Ten hinges on the moves of other conferences, I will enter my term as commisioner on the following assumptions:
1) The Big East has split into two seperate conferences, one football and one basketball. The new 'football' big east has brought along Notre Dame as a affilate member and Memphis as a full member.
I see Memphis, despite its geographic isolation from the other schools, as the most established school the Big East can choose from. They have the best year in-year out basketball program of the canidates availble and also are one of the few with Big East level institutions always in place. They also would give the Big East a tie in to a new year's day bowl (liberty) and a possible tie in to the other fedex sponsored bowl (orange). As another plus, the state flagship (UT) is 500 miles away and more relevant in Nashville than Memphis.
Notre Dame, even sans football, is still a force to be reckoned with both academically and athletically. The university has a huge fanbase and a large following amoung catholics and non-catholics in both New York and Chicago. If the Big East is to add a non-football school, Notre Dame might be the most logical choice. Also, I feel there is some sort of comraderie between the Big East schools that would keep FiniteMan's scenario from happening -- the Publics would be uninclined to leave thier fellow private peers searching the non-football conference wasteland for a home -- especially with the Atlantic Ten and CAA near full capacity. Seven - Seton Hall, Saint John's, Georgetown, Providence, Villanova, Marquette and DePaul - is a stable number for a new conference.
Also, I doubt the Big East is going to be devastated over losing members third or forth in both alumni and media exposure in thier home markets behind larger state schools, with the possible exception of Villanova. In Villanova's case, the possibility of a resurgent Temple or a future addition of Delaware could gather more of a following in the Philly area than Villanova can by itself.
2) I will note here that the Nine-team Big East is seen as a lion on the prowl, in search of one more solid school to add to the conference pride. If and when a school separates itself from the figurative herd of mid-major antelopes -- be it Massachusetts, Temple, UCF, UNC-Charlotte, ECU or Delaware-- the rest of mid-majors will be helpless to stop the Big East. I concede that this new 'Big East' will desperatly need to solidfy its northeastern footprint, this means that the 'Big East' will likely poach a school from our new 'Atlantic Ten'-- Temple being the most likely suspect. However, it will be a while before any of the northeastern canidates could field a BCS-caliber football team or [other than temple] facilities. For simplicities sake, we'll say the Big East stops expanding at 9 full members for now.
3) The Seven realigned catholic schools provide more in markets, size and compeitition than my Atlantic Ten can. Since 7 is not enough for a stable conference, I will anticipate the new catholic basketball league to expand with three midwestern schools from the A10: Saint Louis, Xavier and Dayton. These three are clear cut choices for the new catholic league, what they bring in markets, endowment and erollment the other competitors just can't match.
I would also like to approach this project with some key goals:
1) I would like to establish two seperate conferences: One of football playing mid-sized publics and the other of acadmeically elite privates. Even more importantly, I want to establish an Atlantic Ten football conference at the FCS level before CAA can move up, using the A10's reputation as a basketball league to draw a few of the schools the CAA wil need to upgrade to the A10.
2) I would like to become the dominant mid-major conference on the East Coast, eclipsing both C-USA and the Sun Belt. I would do this using a similar strategy to C-USA: putting 2nd or 3rd tier mid-sized publics in several of the east coast's largest markets [atlanta, Virginia Beach, Boston, Philadelphia]. The end result of this goal is to raid C-USA for juggernaught UCF, academically and atheltically the crem de la crop of C-USA.
3) To establish an above-par baseball league; Hockey may be big up north, but rarely is sponsered as a conference sport. Baseball will give me a solid third sport, and while I don't think the league will ever be on par with C-USA, it should atleast give me a third sport to fall back on and free time on ESPN.
This leaves me with the following schools [around 2011]:
Temple, UMASS, Rhode Island, UNC-Charlotte,
George Washington, Duquenese, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Joeseph's, Richmond, La Salle, Fordham
With this setup in mind, I would push expansion up to 14 by adding three football schools. The first school I would choose would be the University of Delaware. With an enrollment around 20,000, a huge endowment and some of the best fan support in FCS, Delaware will one day carry the flag for our newly minted football league. While the program has been down since moving to the tougher CAA, Delaware has a great baseball program historically. The second addition to the Atlantic Ten would be SUNY-Stony Brook. Stony Brook is a mid-sized state university, complete with a solid endowment and focused enough on cademics to join the American Association of Universities (along with SUNY-Buffalo). My third addtion will be Old Dominion University. While James Madison has had more recent football success, Old Dominion is a little bigger, a bit more succesful at basketball and has better academics. More importantly, ODU is smack-dab in the middle of the Norfolk-virginia Beach metro area [1.7 M], which is flush with recruits and tv sets. ODU will have the facilities in place for future FCS football success upon arrival to our conference, but will need commitment and funds for the future.
These new members leave me with seven privates and seven publics. While it is my intention to eventually split the A-10 in two, I would temporarly keep the conference together while UNC-Charlotte and Old Dominion start up their football programs. After Old Dominion has started up its football program, I would take my four FCS publics (Delaware, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Old Dominion) along with Stony Brook, Georgia State, Villanova and Richmond secede from the overinflated FCS CAA. Georgia State would be an affiliate member for a few years, with a promise of full membership down the road after I split the conference. All other things equal, I think Villanova would rather follow local rival UDelaware than stay behind in a weakened CAA. I have serious doubts about Rhode Island, SUNY-Stony Brook, and ODU's ability to play at an FBS level, so for now 'Atlantic Ten Football' stays at Division 1-AA.
"Atlantic Ten" Football: Richmond, Georgia State, SUNY-Stony Brook, Massachusetts, Delaware, Rhode Island, Old Dominion, Villanova
Atlantic Ten Publics: Temple, UMASS, Rhode Island, UNC-Charlotte, SUNY-Stony Brook, Deleware, Old Dominion,
Atlantic Ten Privates: George Washington, Duqueneses, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Joesph's, Richmond, La Salle, Fordham
Given some good luck, the Atlantic Ten should be a compeititive FCS football conference by the time 2015 rolls around. The departure of programs UDelaware, Richmond and UMassachusetts has hit the FCS CAA pretty hard, but the conference is far from dead. I would like to maintain a relationship between the A10 and the CAA similar to the one between the WAC and the MWC: Atleast during the early going, I'd like to keep the CAA as a competitive rival if only for sceduling reasons. Yet With the exit of Old Dominion, Georgia State, UMASS, UDelaware, and Richmond, I have sentenced the CAA to life in FCS. Never again can CAA legitimatly think beyond 1-AA.
I would encourage, but not require, UNC-Charlotte to start its football program at the FBS level as an independent. NC-Charlotte will face alot of competition from tobacco road, ECU and the Virginia schools. I'll wager that UNC-Charlotte will be more likely to drum up support for the highest level of football, even if FBS costs more in the first place. It'll probably be roughly 10-15 years for the program to reach FBS play. This coinsides with the timetable I have for Stony Brook and Rhode Island. Hopefully, the A-10 can all upgrade together.
Next would be my plan of attack for FBS level football. Before I split away from the private schools and form my new conference, I would need all eight members to upgrade thier facilities to an FBS acceptable level, around 20k. Georgia State, Delaware and [i think] Old Dominion will have no problem meeting these requirements. UMASS should have the funding, and if they can't build thier own, they can always rent out the Patriots stadium in nearby Foxburo. I'm worried about Stony Brook, as they just spent about 22 million on a stadium 10,000 short from acceptable Division I levels. But they have a large enough endowment and a large enough fanbase in a large enough market that I'm not too worried about it. If you thought Stony Brook was bad, you'll be absoulty terrified about Rhode Island's ability to garner enough funding for Division IA football. The school has A) a less than 100m endowment B) plays in the smallest state in the union and C) plays in a staduim nearly a century old that seats under 6,000. If Rhode Island can't cut it at the game of FBS, then I'll switch them out for the University of New Hampshire, who is in much better shape to reach if not 20k, atleast 15k capacity.
However, I have a plan even for little Rhode Island. I would have the small school take out a 40 million loan -- about twice what Stony Brook paid for thier 10,000 seat wonder -- from the state. I would pay this back over a twenty year period by A) Selling the land and/or the old staduim to developers and B) through my mid-major NCAA tournament earnings and future profits from Body-Bag games with the big east and C) Rights to a local all-rams ppv sports channel, which I hope might just take off given the lack of a major franchise [either NCAA or Pro] in Rhode Island [and yes, I know UCONN and BC are near by, they're just a little less close by than they are in Conneticut and Massachusetts, respectivly] . Even with all these factors, the state would still have to pay atleast a forth of the costs. But with a little good will and a little bit of luck, we might just get Division I football off the ground in America's smallest state. If SUNY-Stony Brook struggles with staduim capacity, I'll use a similar plan for them. However, Stony Brook would be instructed to focus only on staduim expansion -- we could probably cut the accounts paid down to 10 Million. Also, the school may be open to renting from a NY professional team.
I would also encourage (push, not shove) the incoming Universities to expand their basketball seating to around 7k. Delaware, Stony Brook and Georgia State are the only universities to fail this requirement (all three around 5k).
After I have taken care of my facilities, my first item on the agenda is to split away from the private schools in the friendliest and most pleasant way I can. I would try to coax Fordham, Hofstra and Northeastern into creating a new mostly private and acadmically friendly football-only conference. However, Instead of completely outlawing scholarships like the patriot league, I would just limit the scholarships given by 5/8. It would also only be a soft ban; there are no forced scholarship limits and schools are allowed to use or not use as many scholarships as they want to. This keeps the Division 1-AA tournament as a possibility while not playing quite to the level of full-out FCS scholarship football.
I'd offer spots to Georgetown, Holy Cross, William & Mary, Duqunese, SUNY-Albany, Dayton and Marist. With the rising price of travel that's become an obstacle in the far-flung football-only Pioneer League, I'd bet atleast some of the schools would bite.
My Vision is something along these lines, somewhat similar to the NEC:
2015-2020 "Atlantic Ten" Football: Villanova, Richmond, Dayton, Duquenese, Marist, Northeastern, Fordham, SUNY-Albany, Hofstra
As a double-actor and head honcho of the basketball schools, I would take thier half of the conference and expand by three. I'd add Boston University, Northeastern and Hofstra. I would market the conference akin to a 'scholarship-level' Ivy league, which should allow me to snatch Northeastern and Hofstra from the public-oriented CAA. All three of these schools are D/RU, private, and have large endoments (BU 1.1B, NE 500M, Hofstra 200M). This mission syncs up well with the other conference members (Richmond and Fordham notably). Plus, they bring back two markets that were hit hardest during the split, Boston and New York City. Having two teams in Boston would make rivalry games between the two conferences a bit easier. I would hope to keep in touch with my former conferencemates in a Big Ten-ACC challenge kind of way, a friendly relationship where both conferences can benefit from. I would love to solidify this with an academic consortium, and possibly a sport where the two leagues play together (hockey anyone?).
I would wait until UNC-Charlotte's program was off the ground before upgrading the publics to FBS. This should be around 2020, or twelve years into my reign as the Atlantic Ten's commishiner. UNC-Charlotte stabilizes the footprint and gives the conference more continuity. I would invite Georgia State as a full member, and then two more schools into my grand conference: Temple and SUNY-Buffalo. While both of these colleges have struggled as Division I members, they have the endowments, stadiums, and alumni bases to build succesful college teams. Plus, Buffalo brings an AAU level academic program. Both Temple and Buffalo would enjoy playing local teams, while maybe not closer than MAC schools distance wise, are atleast culturally relevant to fans. And both schools would love to have a stable membership to a Northeastern all-sports conference. Given time, I think both Temple and Buffalo can get back on thier feet and atleast draw well for home games.
Our new all-sports league: SUNY-Stony Brook, Delaware, Georgia State, Old Dominion, Massachusetts, Rhode Island,Temple, SUNY-Buffalo, UNC-Charlotte
Our new "Atlantic Ten": George Washington, Duquenese, Saint Bonaventure, Saint Joeseph's, Richmond, La Salle, Fordham , Boston University, Northeastern, Hofstra
Founding members in bold
To answer the third question: Would our new athletic conference be enough to woo Central Florida? Would the new all sports league be dominant mid-major in the eastern seaboard? With the departure of Memphis, C-USA loses its flagship university. What glue will then be holding UCF to a conference that is centered in Texas? Our new league could offer the same level of excellence in academics, baseball and football, and easier travel plus better basketball than C-USA. So if given the offer, I think we could get UCF to bolt for greener pastures. The question is, will they still need a home by the time our new league is fully Division 1 compliant?
Last edited by thelurker on Fri Jul 18, 2008 9:41 am, edited 1 time in total.