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A-10 expansion move complements C-USA strategy

From Staff and Wire Reports
©2003 and The Associated Press

As expected, Charlotte and Saint Louis were invited to join the Atlantic 10 Conference on Thursday in an expansion that would boost the league to 14 teams in 2005-06 and help Conference USA tie up some loose ends.

The 49ers and Billikens are currently in C-USA, which earlier this week learned it would lose Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida, Marquette and DePaul to the Big East in 2005. C-USA quickly responded to those five defections by sealing previously-negotiated deals with WAC schools Rice, Southern Methodist and Tulsa, along with MAC members Central Florida and Marshall to join the league.

Like Marquette and DePaul, Charlotte and SLU do not field football teams and the departure of the two schools for the A-10 would complete — for the time being — C-USA's plan to transform itself into a 12-team league of all-sports members with a footprint spanning the south.

The 49ers and Billikens are expected to ponder the A-10 bids over the next few days, but indications are that both schools — though assured by C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky they are welcomed to stay put — view their prospective new league favorably.

Charlotte athletic director Judy Rose said her school was "thrilled to receive an invitation. With the invitation comes access to greater information about the league. We have done our homework, but we are going to use the next few days to review their policies and formats."

The 49ers have scheduled a press conference for Monday at 3 p.m. to discuss their plans concerning the invitation.

Saint Louis athletics director Doug Woolard said the Billikens were "pleased and excited to be considered for expansion by the Atlantic 10," with which the school had already exchanged information.

"The University administration will review the necessary documentation and reserve comment until a decision is reached," said Woolard.

 SLU has also been pursued by the Missouri Valley Conference.

If Charlotte and Saint Louis decide to make the move, C-USA still must wait a bit for the landscape to settle as one of its linchpin schools, Texas Christian, contemplates overtures from the Mountain West Conference.

A plan is in place to fill the void if the Frogs depart, noted Banowsky in a Wednesday teleconference. He mentioned no schools but reports have indicated that the potential replacement could be Louisiana Tech or Temple.

The Atlantic 10 Conference is in its 28th year of NCAA Division I competition. The league's membership includes Dayton, Duquesne, Fordham, George Washington, LaSalle, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, Saint Joseph's, Temple and Xavier.

©2003 and The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

02.23.07 10:47 AM

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