VCU heading to Atlantic 10, leaving CAA

RICHMOND, Va. — VCU is joining the Atlantic 10 after deciding to leave the Colonial Athletic Association, a person familiar with the decision said Tuesday.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the move has not been publicly announced. VCU has scheduled a 1:30 p.m. press conference Tuesday and the Atlantic 10 has scheduled a teleconference for later this afternoon.

The timetable for the move remains unclear though CBSSports.com reported Monday that VCU will join the Atlantic 10 in 2013.

CAA bylaws provide that a team leaving the league immediately becomes ineligible for the conference basketball tournament, league commissioner Tom Yeager said Monday. He said at the time that he had not yet heard from VCU or the Atlantic 10 about the shift in conferences.

Yeager did not return a phone message Tuesday.

The CAA tournament is played down the street from VCU’s home arena, and has attracted record crowds in recent years with VCU among the favorites.

The move will again place Virginia Commonwealth, one of the rising programs in the nation, in the same league as city rival Richmond. The switch is expected to give a competitive and financial boost to the Rams’ program.

VCU and coach Shaka Smart became the biggest story of the 2011 NCAA tournament when they were one of the last, and most controversial, schools allowed in the field. But once in, they beat five BCS-level schools to go from the First Four to the Final Four. After the tournament, VCU gave Smart an eight-year contract that pays him an average of $1.21 million per year.

The Rams won the CAA tournament again this season, beat Wright State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament and came within a missed 3-pointer at the buzzer against Indiana of reaching the round of 16 again.

But the Rams were the only CAA school among the 68 teams invited to the tournament. Drexel, which had won 27 games and had a 19-game winning streak snapped in the championship, was relegated to the NIT.

That scenario is far less likely to happen to a runner-up in the Atlantic 10.

Since 2000, the A-10 has received 20 at-large bids to the NCAA tournament, the CAA just four.

The loss of one of its three best basketball programs comes as a big blow to the CAA, which last week won a reprieve when George Mason, another of the big three, announced it is staying.

Old Dominion, the other team considering a change in conference affiliation, has not yet announced its plans. The school’s board discussed the situation in a closed session Monday.

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