VCU leaves CAA, announces move to Atlantic 10

RICHMOND, VA. (AP) - VCU is looking to make the most of its rise to prominence in men’s basketball and President Michael Rao said moving to the Atlantic 10 is “the next step.”

The president said at press conference Tuesday to announce that VCU is leaving the Colonial Athletic Association to join the A-10 that “premier universities are premier across the board and that includes athletics.”

The Atlantic 10 began looking for potential new members as part of a long-term strategic plan adopted about 18 months ago, Commissioner Bernadette McGlade said on a teleconference.

She welcomed VCU as “a perfect fit for the Atlantic 10 Conference.”

Rao said the move will take effect in all sports on July 1, 2012. He said he knows there will be pressure to win and that the Rams welcome it.

“We wouldn’t have it any other way,” Rao said. “We play to win. We expect it win. We have been winning.”

With VCU’s basketball program on the rise under coach Shaka Smart the Rams want to become NCAA tournament regulars.

Smart said in a statement released by VCU that he’s “extremely excited by the opportunity to join the Atlantic 10. It is a phenomenal league made up of programs with both rich traditions and recent track records of success.”

VCU became the biggest story of the 2011 NCAA tournament when they were one of the most controversial schools invited as an at-large entry. They went from the First Four to the Final Four, but would rather not have to win the conference tournament to be assured a spot in the NCAA field.

CAA bylaws provide that a team leaving the league immediately becomes ineligible for the conference basketball tournament, league Commissioner Tom Yeager said Monday.

By leaving, VCU is forfeiting as much as $5 million in shares due them over the next six years for victories in the NCAA tournament.

Rao said the move was worth it.

“The expected returns are far greater that the short-term losses,” Rao said Tuesday.

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.

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