In May 2012, Butler University announced that its athletic programs would leave the Horizon League for the Atlantic 10 Conference, beginning in the fall of 2013. However, on May 29, Butler declared that it would begin its time in A10 this season, one year early.
Butler is a member of A10 in all sports except football, which the conference does not support.
The university’s men’s basketball team has been the school’s claim to fame over the past several years, making it to the Division I Men’s National Championship in 2010 and 2011. James McGrath, associate athletic director and sports information director at Butler, said the HL and A10 are pretty much the same dog with the same bark.
“Coach Brad Stevens has repeatedly said that the competition in both leagues has always been fierce and that winning a conference game is hard, especially on the road,” he said. “When you step out on the court, a conference game is going to be hard, regardless of the name on the conference.”
Trevor Parks, sports information director at Youngstown State University, said that Butler’s departure created some scheduling headaches.
“I think that was kind of a tricky thing for most schools because we expected Butler to be in the league this year,” Parks said. “Then, when they weren’t, it’s become kind of a hodgepodge of dates where teams are supposed to be playing.”
With Butler out of the picture, the team to beat in the HL is up for grabs, he said.
“I think we’re looking for the next team to get there,” Parks said. “The nice thing is that we have nine schools that think they can be the team to take the next step. Hopefully, YSU is one of them.”
Even without Butler, competition in the HL is still fierce, especially in conference play.
“Once it gets to January, you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game pretty much from Jan. 1 to the end of the season,” Parks said.
As is the case with any conference, early league games are vital to a school’s tournament resume.
“If you screw up in January or February, then by the time you get to March and April, you’re so far behind the eight-ball that you really can’t get any momentum going,” Parks said.
Parks wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Butler being scheduled as a nonconference opponent.
“I would think the teams in the Horizon League have a good enough relationship with Butler that there could be some nonconference games down the road,” he said. “I guess it just depends on maybe where Butler wants to go with their schedule.”
Parks said YSU had a good rapport with Butler’s athletics department.
“It made them better being a part of our league, and I think it made us better being a part of their league,” he said.