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George Mason elects to stay in the CAA

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George Mason will remain in the Colonial Athletic Association, Athletic Director Tom O’Connor said Friday.

In a telephone interview, O’Connor said the Fairfax school had discussions with the Atlantic 10 about joining that conference but in the end decided to stay in the CAA, the Patriots’ conference home since 1985.

“We felt it was in our best interests to stay,” O’Connor said, citing the conference’s history and geographic strength.

The 12-member CAA has faced recent uncertainty about its membership. Georgia State, a conference member since 2005, announced last month that it will join the Sun Belt Conference in 2013. Virginia Commonwealth is reportedly weighing a move to the Atlantic 10. Old Dominion, which in 2009 restarted a football team that competes in the second-tier Football Championship Subdivision, reportedly is considering a move to join Conference USA so its football program can make the jump to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

O’Connor said the moves being weighed by VCU and ODU had no bearing on George Mason’s decision to remain in the CAA. He added that George Mason was never offered Atlantic 10 membership, nor did it apply, but that the school did meet with Atlantic 10 representatives.

“Through this process we’ve engaged in open communication with senior executives at George Mason University,” CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager said in a statement. “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.”

Last week, Butler announced that it was leaving the Horizon League for the Atlantic 10, which will lose Temple to the Big East and Charlotte to Conference USA in 2013-14.

The CAA has achieved notable men’s basketball success in recent years, with George Mason advancing to the Final Four in 2006 and VCU making the national semifinals in 2011. But it is not considered as strong a basketball conference as the Atlantic 10 from top to bottom. In the past 20 years, the Atlantic 10 has produced 41 at-large bids to the NCAA tournament, the most of any conference outside of the six major conferences. Since 1987, CAA teams have received only four at-large berths.

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