Could the Saints be Marching into the A10?

With the formal break-up of the Big East complete, reports have swirled about who the Catholic Seven will reach out to fill out their conference. Those rumors and reports will finally become a reality tomorrow at 11am when the new Big East will confirm one of the worst kept secrets of this short year, that Butler and Xavier will leave the Atlantic 10 Conference, along with Creighton from the Missouri Valley Conference, to join the new Big East next season.

While some Saints fans might be discouraged that our dream of seeing Marquette and Georgetown come to the Times Union Center is dashed for now, all hope of improving conference standing is not lost. With the loses of Xavier and Butler, along with the already announced departures of Temple, to the conference formerly known as the Big East, and Charlotte, to Conference USA, the Atlantic 10 will find its membership dropped to 12 schools. While this in and of itself might not have been enough to spur the conference to look to refill its roster of schools, the A-10 is also almost certain to lose Saint Louis and either Dayton or Richmond the following year to the new Big East. By all reports this information has the Atlantic 10 looking to expand its membership by two as early as next season, and potentially by two more in the following year.

How does this all relate to Siena? The Saints, according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports and sources close to the Atlantic 10, are a top candidate for A-10 expansion along with George Mason, the consensus favorite. What this all means is that one way or another, either during this round of expansion or the next, there is the very real possibility that Siena will find itself looking at an invitation to the Atlantic 10 Conference.

If this move were to occur the Saints would find themselves in an Atlantic 10 that looks very different from today, but still one that is a significant step up from their current level. Virginia Commonwealth, Dayton or Richmond, Saint Joseph’s, UMass, Rhode Island, George Washington, La Salle, Duquense, Saint Bonaventure, and Fordham would all still remain. Amongst these schools VCU and La Salle are both in the NCAA Tournament with at-large bids while Saint Joseph’s and UMass earned at-large bids in the NIT. No, this would not be the A-10 of this season with five NCAA Tournament teams, but it would still be a formidable multi-bid potential conference on a year in and year out basis.

Overwhelming response to polls posted on this site and others have confirmed that fans are eager to see the Saints advance their conference standing. There is an understanding that such a move, even in a weaker A-10, will not come without risk. Any advancement will need to come with the firm understanding of the school and donor base that the status quo will not be sufficient at the next level. Expenditures by Atlantic 10 institutions on men’s basketball and athletics as a whole are higher than the present levels at which Siena operates.

Presently in the MAAC, Siena’s basketball expenses, $2,293,234, and athletic expenses, $12,229,041, in 2011 are both above the MAAC averages, excluding Siena and the soon to depart Loyola, of $1,589,131 for basketball and $10,954,583 for all athletics. In short, with more money and the Times Union Center, Siena presently operates as a big fish in a small pond.

The A-10 Siena would be entering had average basketball expenses of $3,291,142 and overall athletic expenses of $17,072,303 in 2011 when football expenses are excluded from the equation. The good news is Siena would not be the smallest fish, with Saint Bonaventure (2.06 million) and La Salle (2.046 million) both presently spending less on basketball than Siena, and Saint Bonaventure (8.3 million) spending less on overall athletics.

The Saints would need to rely on the advantages brought by having the Times Union Center, which would instantly become the largest capacity facility in the A-10. The Saints, even following three down seasons, would also have the second highest attendance figures in the league following only VCU, which is a great indicator for revenues potential.

Ultimately no movement up in conference comes without risk, but the Saints are in a good position to make the move and have the facilities and fan base to make the investments needed to find success. When an invitation will be extended, or ultimately if, is yet to be determined, but the wheels of change appear to be in motion, and it is looking increasingly likely that Siena may find itself marching into a new conference in the not too distant future.



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