The Washington Times - March 26, 2012, 12:43PM

George Mason athletic director Tom O’Connor denied in a statement released by the school that the Patriots have had formal talks with the Atlantic 10 about switching conferences.

CBSSports.com reported Sunday that Mason, Virginia Commonwealth and Butler are in talks to join the Atlantic 10.

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George Mason University has not had any formal discussions nor have we been invited to join the Atlantic 10 Conference,” O’Connor said. “As a founding member of the Colonial Athletic Association, we are proud of the CAA’s accomplishments and are committed to the success of the conference.”

Virginia Commonwealth, like Mason, is a member of the CAA. Butler is a member of the Horizon League. All three schools have played in the Final Four at least once since 2006.

“The nature of college athletics dictates that we have to be aware of all the discussions that may be going on with conference membership issues on all levels,” O’Connor said. “We have the responsibility to ensure that Mason is in the best position to continue the success of our athletic programs within the mission of George Mason University.”

The 12-school CAA includes six schools with football programs in the conference (Delaware, Georgia State, James Madison, Old Dominion, Towson and William & Mary) as well as six schools that do not field football teams (Drexel, George Mason, Hofstra, Northeastern, UNC Wilmington and Virginia Commonwealth).

The 14-team Atlantic 10 will lose Temple, which announced earlier this month it will depart for the Big East, in 2013-14 as part of the latest reshuffling of conference alignments. The Atlantic 10 includes five schools that do not field football programs, including George Washington.

One difference between the CAA and Atlantic 10 is their membership’s respective abilities to earn NCAA tournament bids. Multiple CAA teams have received NCAA invitations just twice in the last 26 years (2006 and 2011), while the Atlantic 10 was last a single-bid league in 2005. It is worth noting that teams, and not leagues, earn NCAA tournament invites beyond an automatic qualifier.

Patrick Stevens