By Shep Hayes/DFP Staff
The conference realignment bug has been sweeping the nation lately, with schools abandoning historical and local sparring partners in favor of conferences where there might be a little more money on the table. On Friday morning, Boston University became another program to make a change, with the Patriot League announcing in a statement that the school will leave the America East conference after next season and join the League for the 2013-2014 academic year. The news was first made widely known by Jeff Goodman of CBS Sports.
Both Robert A. Brown, President of Boston University and Daniel H. Weiss, President of Lafayette College and Chairman of the Patriot League Council of Presidents cited compatible academic and athletic standards between the two groups as the reasons behind the move in the statement.
"We are very impressed by the academic quality of the institutions in the Patriot League and by the League's commitment to student-athletes while effectively competing at the NCAA Division I level," said Brown. "We believe that the philosophy of the League is a good match for Boston University and that the schools in the League will give our athletes a rich competitive environment."
"Boston University is an outstanding addition to our membership as a private institution with a robust academic reputation and prolific athletic history," said Weiss. "This decision to add Boston University to the Patriot League mirrors the Presidents' commitment and vision to the stability and long-term positioning of the League."
It was considered only a matter of time before BU would find itself with an offer it could not refuse from another conference. The Colonial Athletic Association, which recently lost Virginia Commonwealth University to the Atlantic-10, Georgia State University to the Sun Belt and Old Dominion University to Conference USA was considered a popular potential destination, given that five former members of America East, including Northeastern University, remain on its membership rolls. But, for whatever reasons, BU ends up in the Patriot League, a smaller, slightly more local conference. More money is not likely to come with the move, but the university seems to feel the Patriot League is an overall better fit.
The League, with its eight members stretching from Washington, D.C. to Worcester, Mass., still represents a bit of a step forward in basketball play. According to RealTimeRPI.com, last season the League was 22nd in the country in average RPI, while America East was 29th. In Ken Pomeroy's conference rankings, both conferences clocked in at the same spots. Lehigh University won the conference tournament this year and earned a 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament, upsetting No. 2 Duke University 75-70 in the Second Round before falling to Xavier University 70-58 in the Third Round.
While BU celebrates the move, a tear should be shed for the America East and its schools. Three charter members remain in the University of Maine, University of New Hampshire and the University of Vermont, but with Stony Brook University also considered on the way out, the conference could be left with only seven members and none in a marquee market, creating a future full of doubt. Whatever happens next, I think BU appreciates the run while it lasted.
We'll keep updating this story as more information comes.