AP Sports Writer
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - George Mason is staying in the Colonial Athletic Association.
The school in Fairfax, one of three league basketball powers that acknowledged considering a change in conference affiliation, announced Friday that staying put is in its best interests.
A committee of administrators looked at what the goals are for the school's athletic programs along with the university's priorities and decided to remain a part of the CAA, athletic director Tom O'Connor said. He said George Mason's status as a founding member of the CAA, the league's geographic and competitive stability and an "exciting" future were factors in the decision.
Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion also have acknowledged that they are studying their conference affiliations. VCU, like George Mason, has expressed interest in the Atlantic 10, which boasts a more powerful basketball league, while Old Dominion _ the only one of the three with a football team _ is intrigued by a jump up to the Bowl Subdivision in Conference USA.
VCU (5) and George Mason and Old Dominion (4 each) account for 13 of the league's last 16 NCAA tournament berths, so the decision was welcome news at CAA headquarters.
"We respected the process George Mason University went through and are pleased it decided that continued membership in the CAA is in the best interest of the university and its athletic programs," league Commissioner Tom Yeager said in a statement released by the league office.
O'Connor said he kept the conference and other league athletic directors, especially those in Virginia, informed through the process, but their intentions did not affect Mason's decision.
"In our discussions, in our room, it was our goal, our choice, and so there was really nothing that anybody on the outside, whether it be rumor, innuendo, chat room, message board, that had an effect on it," O'Connor said in a telephone interview.
That doesn't mean he's not rooting for the other schools to stay, too.
The CAA is facing the possibility of having UNC Wilmington and Towson declared ineligible for postseason play next season by the NCAA later this summer because of Academic Progress Rate deficiencies. With the departure of Georgia State to the Sun Belt Conference, those two bans would reduce the CAA tournament to nine teams, and any additional losses would be damaging.
"We'd love to have everybody together and stay in the family," O'Connor said of VCU and Old Dominion, "but those are decisions the other institutions have to make."
VCU's Board of Visitors met Friday and the topic of conference affiliation was never discussed in the public portion of the meeting where athletics was to be a topic. Old Dominion officials have said they won't comment until a decision is made.
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