The Atlantic 10 is wasting little time marketing its newest member—the Butler Bulldogs.
Butler University announced last May that it would depart the Horizon League for the A10, and already the small liberal arts school near Broad Ripple is featured prominently in the conference’s marketing materials.
Several of the conference’s schools—including pre-season conference favorites St. Louis and St. Joseph—are hyping home men’s basketball games against Butler, which made a name for itself with appearances in the 2010 and 2011 NCAA championship game.
“With the success they’ve had, they’re definitely a draw,” said Brian Kunderman, St. Louis University assistant sports information director.
The now 16-team A10 also added Virginia Commonwealth University this year.
“Our success the last few years has made quite an impact on road and home games, and we expect the same in the A10,” said Butler Athletic Director Barry Collier.
Butler has led the Horizon League in attendance each of the last three years and as a road team last season it outdrew other visiting conference teams by more than 1,300 fans per game.
Butler averaged 7,400 per home conference game and 5,300 on the road. Butler’s away games at schools with richer basketball traditions, like Cleveland State and Wright State, were regularly sold out.
“Butler has a unique story and lots of tradition, and that makes it a really marketable team,” said Bob Lovell, former IUPUI men’s basketball coach and athletic director and host of the “Indiana Sports Talk” radio show. “The combination of their two Final Four appearances plus their coach really makes them a draw. A lot of people around here maybe take it for granted and don’t realize how big a star [Butler coach] Brad Stevens has become. He’s known for putting really competitive teams on the floor, and that’s the kind of team people will pay to watch.”
Though the A10 is largely populated by East Coast schools, its expansion to the Midwest means Butler will be able to rekindle some old rivalries with former Horizon League members University of Dayton, St. Louis and Xavier that now play in the A10.
“I think those kinds of rivalries can really generate interest and drive ticket sales,” Collier said.
With many of the A10 schools playing in bigger media markets and in bigger arenas than Horizon League schools, Lovell thinks Butler could become a bigger draw.
Collier thinks the relationship between the A10 and Butler will be mutually beneficial.
“The stages that we’re on are much bigger now,” Collier said. “We’re going to be playing in [Washington] D.C., New York City and Philadelphia. That brings us a lot of exposure in a footprint where we haven’t been before. That exposure for our school is a big reason we made this move.”•