George Mason Staying Put in CAA
Charles E. Sutton | , WI Staff Writer | 5/15/2012, 10:49 p.m.
Following weeks of discussion, George Mason University will remain in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), according to Athletic Director Tom O'Connor.
In a May 11 telephone interview O'Connor indicated the Fairfax County school had talked with the Atlantic 10 about joining that conference, but when the discussions concluded, Mason decided to remain with the CAA, where it has been a member since 1985.
"We felt it was in our best interest to stay," O'Connor said, citing the conference's geographic strength and track record.
The 12-member CAA has recently faced uncertainty about its membership. Georgia State announced last month that it will join the Sun Belt Conference in 2013, leaving the CAA where it held membership since 2005.
Virginia Commonwealth (VCU) is reportedly considering a move to the Atlantic 10. In 2009, Old Dominion restarted a football team that competes in the second-tier Football Championship Subdivision, the school is reportedly weighing a move to join Conference USA so its football program can make leap to the Football Bowl Subdivision.
O'Connor said that Mason's decision to stay in the CAA was in no way impacted by the moves being considered by VCU and ODU. He added that Mason did not apply, nor was it ever offered membership in the Atlantic 10, but that the school did meet with Atlantic 10 representatives.
"Through this process we've engaged in open communication with senior executives at George Mason University," CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager said in a statement. "We respected the process George Mason University went through and are pleased it decided that continued membership in the CAA is in the best interest of the university and its athletic programs."
The Atlantic 10 will lose Charlotte to Conference USA and Temple to the Big East in 2013-14, and recently, Butler announced that it was leaving the Horizon League for the Atlantic 10.
In recent years, the CAA has gained notable men's basketball success. Mason went to the Final Four in 2006, and VCU advanced to the national semifinals in 2011. But from top to bottom, it is not considered as strong a basketball conference as the Atlantic 10. Over the past twenty years, the Atlantic 10 has produced 41 at-large bids to the NCAA tournament, the most of any conference outside of the six major conferences. On the other hand, since 1987, CAA teams have received only four at-large berths.