"Premier universities are premier across the board, and that includes athletics," Rao said. "We need to be willing, and we are certainly able, to compete at the very highest levels, and we look forward to doing that in the A-10."Watching VCU president Michael Rao’s press conference (live) on video was revealing. I came away from it thinking Rao doesn’t know much about basketball, or sports, in general. I could be wrong, but he didn’t sound like a guy familiar with the footing on which he was standing to opine. That doesn’t mean the move to the Atlantic 10 is a bad move, or a good move. With the flux that conferences are in today, only time will tell.
He acknowledged that $5 million is a lot to walk away from, as is a conference tournament played just down the street from the university.
"The expected returns are far greater that the short-term losses," Rao said, and the increased expectations despite a move to a more competitive league are welcome.
"We wouldn't have it any other way," Rao said. "We play to win. We expect it win. We have been winning."
Me? I’m thinking about Aesop’s fable about the dog on a bridge that dropped his bone, to grab after an illusion of a bigger bone in the water.
As far as men’s basketball is concerned, if VCU goes on winning at the rate they have since Shaka Smart was hired by Rao’s predecessor, Eugene Trani, it probably won’t matter all that much which conference VCU calls home.
However, I can say that Trani understood college basketball. During his presidency he was a frequent visitor in the media room after games and he traded observations with reporters in a way that demonstrated his ability to grasp events on the fly, without someone writing a script for him.
In addition to walking away from guaranteed money, VCU is trading away its intense CAA rivalries with William & Mary, George Mason, Old Dominion, James Madison, Drexel, etc., for potential A10 rivals. Thus, VCU hopes to create meaningful relationships with Duquesne, Fordham, Saint Louis, Xavier, Massachusetts and George Washington.
Longtime Rams fans probably hope there will be a way to continue playing Mason and ODU, at least, in future basketball seasons.