As many know, Mason has decided to leave the Colonial Athletic Association in favor of the Atlantic 10. We have been mulling this move off and on for a year. It was never an easy decision: the CAA had been good for us in many ways, and we will continue to value relationships with the schools that remain. I had a further concern. With several provost colleagues and Tom Yaeger, the athletic commissioner, we had helped found the companion academic alliance, which brought us a number of really interesting opportunities, beginning with the annual undergraduate research conference, of which we were first host, and which many of our students have enjoyed.
I’m not a big fan of all the conference shuffling and many of the motives behind it, and obviously Mason is now, if modestly, a participant. I’m not the one to be commenting on the athletic motives involved, except to note that they were serious and carefully considered.
But I think it worth noting that I was included in all the discussions. I say this not to toot a personal horn, but because I know that in many comparable circumstances provosts were left out entirely, and academic considerations given no explicit attention at all. Our process really was different in that regard, and I think this is to Mason’s credit. We looked at academic implications, and have worked hard to make sure there is no direct impact on student fees—another important consideration.
The new alignment does give us some interesting opportunities to renew or build some regional rivalries, which can be good fun if kept in perspective. For the moment we will continue with the Colonial Academic Alliance, which at least for a few years will allow us to maintain these advantages.
This is an athletic decision, and should not be blown out of proportion in terms of what it means for the University. I do think it was a decision responsibly made (if by the nature of things not publicly debatable). And, hopefully, it will help generate some good competitive entertainment in future.