Terry Driscoll is more interested than most in speculation and reports of possible realignment involving the Colonial Athletic Association, but William and Mary’s athletic director said that he and the school are likely to wait for a resolution before acting on their future.
“Very honestly, I’m not part of the discussions of what’s been going on,” Driscoll said. “I’m as curious as anyone, because what has transpired has transpired very, very quickly.”
Sources said last week that VCU and George Mason are considering a move to the Atlantic 10 Conference, which would cripple the CAA’s basketball profile and could prompt moves by fellow league members such as Old Dominion and James Madison.
“It’s a little bit difficult to say, here’s what we’re going to do, when we really don’t know if there is going to be a move,” Driscoll said. “Because if there is no move, it makes great internet conversation.
“If there is a move, then who moves, what are the actual impacts on us, what does the future of the CAA look like?” he added. “I’m more about looking at what the realities are and how do we move forward? We’re not going to change. We’re going to be who we are.”
William and Mary is one of four remaining charter members of the CAA, which morphed out of the old ECAC South in 1985. The others are Mason, JMU and UNC Wilmington.
The conference underwent a membership crisis in 2000, when Richmond, East Carolina and American announced they were bolting, as commissioner Tom Yeager was in the process of assembling a larger league.
“When the dust settles,” Driscoll said, “there’s going to be a moment in time when the CAA’s going to have to say, here’s where we are. What are the CAA’s options? Right now, we’re a member of the CAA and we’ve gone forward with them from the beginning.
“I think at that point we have to ask, is the direction of the CAA still compatible with what William and Mary’s trying to do? Or if it diverged in a way that maybe it’s time for William and Mary to think about what it has to do. One thing that scares me about these situations is that sometimes decisions are made very quickly.”
William and Mary’s academic profile has led observers to wonder for years if the Tribe wouldn’t be a better fit in the Patriot League, whose members are smaller, private schools — William and Mary is public — with similar academic standards.
“We’ll be playing someplace. We’ve never been a great fit any place,” Driscoll said with a chuckle. “Being an outlier isn’t something new to us. We’ve had a long tradition here. There’s some reluctance, as always, to jump off the ship. I wish I had a little more clarification about what the CAA, if in fact these two schools move forward, what’s going to happen. Because then the conversations begin with Old Dominion and other people. Do they feel they have to move?”
Driscoll added, “For us to make a pre-emptive strike, it’s not really in our nature. It doesn’t mean we’re ignorant about what’s going on. It’s just that it’s a little early to get the troops up in arms about this or that when we don’t really have anything beyond speculation. There may be some interest from the Patriot League or some interest from somebody else. But at this point we’re in a little bit of a wait-and-see mod, evaluate what our options are and then make a decision — not to do anything too hastily.”
VCU and Mason’s possible jump to the Atlantic 10 is tied to their desire to join a league that provides greater access to the NCAA tournament, as well as Temple’s departure from the conference for the Big East. In the past seven years, the A-10 has received 13 at-large bids, the CAA four. The A-10 is also about to begin renegotiating TV contracts.
Sources have identified VCU, Mason and 2010 and ’11 national runnerup Butler as likely to jump to the A-10. Such moves would make the Atlantic 10 the nation’s strongest non-marquee basketball league.
Georgia State already announced that it intends to leave the CAA for the Sun Belt Conference in 2013, because the school wants its fledgling football program to have a Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) home.
“The economic piece that appears to be the driver in all these transitions, we’re not a big participant in that,” Driscoll said. “We’d like to be, but we’re not. Certainly, we would love to do better in that area. But the reality of it is that’s not really our mission. I come back to the student-athlete component: graduate at high rates; if we can have teams that compete and win and provide a positive athletic experience, that’s what we want to do.”