Illustration by James Callahan
This month, Virginia Commonwealth University leaves its longtime conference, the Colonial Athletic Association, for the bright lights of the Atlantic 10. In May, when VCU announced the move, it came as something of a shock to the CAA and its commissioner, Tom Yeager, who said he learned of VCU's departure through media reports the day before he received a call from VCU President Michael Rao. "That was frustrating, and is frustrating," he told reporters. "particularly when there's very easy accessibility — we're separated by a couple miles." Well, it looks like Yeager might have spoken too soon. Apparently, a letter was recently found stuck in the very back of the mailbox at the CAA's Patterson Avenue offices, postmarked three days before the public announcement.
There's no easy way to say this, so we'll just say it: We are leaving you effective July 1 to join the Atlantic 10 Conference. I know this is difficult to hear, but we wanted to be sure you received this news directly from us first, out of respect for our 17 wonderful years together. We owe you at least that much, along with the $250,000 exit fee.
Believe us, this was a very difficult decision. It's just that lately it seems we've been growing apart, and it feels like we want different things. You want us to go on as we have for years, but we want to change, grow, expand our horizons and keep 75 percent of revenues after conference expenses.
Please understand that it's not you, it's us. You're great. It's just that so many big things are happening for us so fast. Our heads are still spinning from all the exciting opportunities that came our way after the 2011 Final Four. Yes, we did go there together, and we will always cherish all the memories and money we made.
But lately we've been spending more time with the A-10 and getting to know them better. They are so awesome, and they really, really get us. The A-10 is who we need at this moment in our life. They are competitive, exciting and frankly offer a much higher chance of an at-large bid to the big dance.
Plus, their men's basketball tournament is held in New York City! Brooklyn, but still. New York City!
It's complicated, though. It's hard to leave you, for so many reasons. It is truly painful to part with such a good friend, as well as the $5 million in Final Four payouts and $700,000 in A-10 entry fees, on top of those exit fees we mentioned.
But we just felt boxed in by your rules and expectations.
I mean, even if we gave you a year's notice that we were leaving, we couldn't play for a conference championship in any sport? Controlling much?
Admit it. You can probably feel how we've been growing apart. You remain a solid, competitive conference, but we're changing and growing. This is our time. People don't look confused anymore when they hear the name VCU. Shaka is a one-name coach. We have Charles Barkley on speed-dial.
We know you've had your heart broken before. (Do you still talk to the University of Richmond at all?) But please, let's try to focus on all the good times we've had together — the five conference championships, the five tournament championships. And we'll always have the Final Four.
We're sorry to deliver this news in a letter, but we just couldn't face you right now. We know George Mason came to your offices and talked it over with you when they were considering leaving. Perhaps Mason's a better school than us, but at least there is this letter, in black and white and well in advance of any announcement or media report. We would never, ever, ever do anything that would cause you public humiliation on top of heartbreak.
That's not cool, and that's not us.