Davidson College officials confirmed Wednesday what has been rumored for weeks, that most Wildcats’ sports teams will leave the Southern Conference for the Atlantic 10 Conference (A-10), beginning in the 2014-2015 academic year.
“The Atlantic 10 is comprised of academically strong institutions located in areas where Davidson has a presence and seeks greater visibility,” President Carol Quillen said during a press conference Wednesday at Baker Sports Complex. Citing the A-10′s academic success, Quillen said that Davidson is “pleased and privileged to play alongside A-10 teams that rank second among all Division I conferences for graduation success rate, with 90 percent of student athletes graduating in 2012.”
Nineteen of Davidson’s 21 Division I teams will compete in the Atlantic 10 Conference after completing one final season in the SoCon. Football will remain in the Pioneer League, while wrestling will try to maintain its current affiliation with the Southern Conference.
The nation’s college sports leagues have been shuffling members more than ever in recent years in a game of musical chairs that’s all about competitiveness and money from lucrative TV contracts. The changes have also hit the Southern Conference, where most Davidson Wildcat teams play.
Davidson officials said they’ve been considering their options for more than year amid what athletics director Jim Murphy called a “volatile environment.” Wildcats’ rivals have been quitting the Southern Conference and other leagues came calling in Davidson.
In March, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern announced they were quitting to join the Sunbelt Conference. And College of Charleston announced last fall it was joining the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
Davidson also was approached last October by the CAA, a conference comprised of East Coast teams, when widespread conference realignments began across the NCAA last season. The college declined the invitation and opted to remain with the Southern Conference, where it has been a member for 20 years.
“We considered commitment to academics, competitiveness across sports, scheduling, and likely alternatives” in the decision making process behind the A-10 move, Quillen said.
Quillen said television partnerships with ESPN, CBS Sports Network, and NBC Sports Group “will provide us with an enormous opportunity to enhance our visibility and extend our reach on a national level.” In addition to boosting the college’s profile, athletics director Jim Murphy noted that the television deals would provide “a revenue stream” to offset the new costs of further travel and realignment.
The Atlantic 10 Conference also has has experienced its own loss of membership in the past year, losing four teams and gaining one other, in addition to Davidson. A-10 members Butler, UNC Charlotte, Temple, and Xavier are leaving the A-10 next season. George Mason University, famous for its 2006 Final Four run, will be joining the A-10 next season along with Davidson.
Murphy spoke to concerns about the A-10′s loss of membership, citing the television agreement as an indicator of the A-10′s strength as a conference. “[The A-10's] philosophy has very much been quality rather than quantity, and don’t worry about the numbers, worry about the value of the schools we look to add,” he said. The conference’s attitude regarding realignment “was one of the things that attracted us so much to begin with.”
Quillen said all levels of Davidson’s leadership were involved in and support the decision to leave the Southern Conference. “[The Trustees] are united and enthusiastically supportive” of the move to the Atlantic 10 Conference. “It is a great day for Davidson, and it is a great day to be a Wildcat.”
May 8, 2013, “Davidson athletics plans announcement: Quitting SoCon?”
April 15, 2013, “Could Davidson quit Southern Conference for A-10?”