In 1848, with John Sutter and James Marshall’s discovery of gold in Sacramento, Calif., America’s focus turned from the industrial East Coast to California in what became known as the California Gold Rush.
Suddenly, Americans headed west in search of their fortunes. Call it manifest destiny, call it gold fever. Whatever the motivation, pioneers drove westward.
Now, the Atlantic Ten Conference is heading west as well, though the reasons aren’t as clear. Could there still be gold in the Sacramento hills?
OK, so the conference hasn’t done anything as drastic as expand to the West Coast – yet. Maybe it’s because people just don’t care what the A-10 does, but it doesn’t seem to matter that one of the newest members to the league is Saint Louis University.
Yes, Saint Louis, based in Missouri, is at least a day’s trip by car from the East Coast. But the A-10 welcomed the Billikens with open arms.
If this were the NBA, Saint Louis would be in the same conference as the Minnesota Timberwolves, not the 76ers. But this doesn’t seem to strike anyone as odd. Maybe they’d care if general tuition all of a sudden went up to pay for travel, but since the NCAA funds athletics travel, that’s doubtful.
And the NCAA doesn’t seem to mind shelling out the extra money to send teams out west for championships. As long as someone is playing the NCAA is making money.
But what about the schools actually on the Atlantic coast? Temple volleyball finished third last year behind Dayton and Xavier, both Ohio-based universities. Eliminate those two and the Owls would have had their first A-10 championship since 2002.
The Atlantic Ten isn’t the only conference to catch gold fever, so to speak, or to head out of its geographical area:
=The Ohio Valley Conference includes five schools that are outside what is geographically considered the Ohio River Valley.
=Texas Christian calls the Mountain West Conference home. Texas isn’t exactly known for its mountains.
=The Mid-American Conference will welcome Temple football in 2007. The conference is already home to Buffalo. Since when are Philadelphia and Buffalo, N.Y., considered Mid-American cities?
In other words, the A-10 isn’t embarking into entirely uncharted territory.
The Atlantic Ten is now home to 14 schools, an easily overlooked technicality. Add to that the fact that revenue from championships like Dayton’s are not going to actual Atlantic coast schools, and you could have a problem of regional envy.
If the A-10 keeps up its current pace of expanding westward roughly every 10 years, the conference will be welcoming Colorado State into the fold in 2015. By the 2025, the A-10 could include San Diego State, and boast 20 school affiliations.
The only group that seems to even pay attention is the band, who will have to pack up and spend spring break in Cincinnati for the men’s basketball championship. Three members of the band recently expressed their displeasure at having to travel to Cincinnati this year and last.
Oh yes, not only are non-Atlantic based schools winning non-revenue championships, they’re hosting them, as well. For the past two seasons, the men’s basketball playoffs have been in Ohio. Let’s hope Southwest Airlines flies to Cincinnati for fans who wanted to see the tournament.
As I see it, the NCAA is branching out as well. Leagues like the A-10 hosting non-Atlantic schools means championships will be played in non-Atlantic coast cities. Pretty soon, you might even see Atlantic Ten Spring Break packages.
Forget Cancun; spend spring break in Missouri for March Madness. It’s genius.
Danielle K. Milner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.