George Mason University’s basketball team was in the ECAC South and Carlos Yates was their star player during my time as a GMU student. The conference became the Colonial Athletic Association in 1985 but it wasn’t until 2006 that GMU put the CAA on the map by reaching the NCAA Final Four.
I’m not a basketball fan but I am a George Mason Patriots fan. I can enjoy a basketball game when Mason is playing but when their season ends, so does my interest in the sport. Today’s news about Mason’s move to the Atlantic 10 Conference made me happy because I think it gives them a better chance of being invited to the Big Dance in the future.
By joining the Atlantic 10, Mason will be reunited with two in-state rivals. I remember when the Richmond Spiders seemed to vex the Patriots every year in the CAA tournament. More recently, the VCU Rams were the Patriots’ toughest opponent. All three teams will be in the A-10 next season. I wonder if any other CAA teams will make the jump.
I couldn’t help but notice the large number of Catholic colleges in the Atlantic 10. In particular, I noticed my father’s alma mater, Fordham University, and my father-in-law’s alma mater, St. Louis University. I can still remember my father taking me to a college basketball game at Fordham when Digger Phelps was their coach.
The GMU Alumni Association sent an email message from University President Dr. Ángel Cabrera. Here are two key paragraphs:
The move to the Atlantic 10 creates new and exciting opportunities for the entire George Mason community. The new conference provides a remarkably good fit athletically, academically and geographically. It will help us further showcase what Mason has to offer as an institution. It will provide exposure to new audiences in regions that are important for the university and will help broaden our reach in recruiting students. It will allow us to reconnect with schools that have been our partners in the past, revive old rivalries and create new ones.
We have carefully thought through this decision, evaluated its implications from multiple perspectives, and concluded that it is the right move at the right time for Mason. Very importantly, we have structured the transition financially in a way that will not impose any additional fees on students. In fact we project that our new conference affiliation will generate additional resources for the athletic programs in addition to the invaluable boost in brand recognition for the entire university.