November 17, 2021 

What Loyola Chicago’s successful bid to join the Atlantic 10 means for women’s basketball

The Ramblers are the A-10's 15th member

On Nov. 16, the Atlantic 10 conference announced that it accepted Loyola University Chicago’s application to join the league.

Loyola will officially become the 15th member of the A-10 on July 1, 2022. 

The existing A-10 teams have already begun to warmly welcome the Ramblers to the league

“We’re excited to be a part of it,” Loyola director of athletics Steve Watson said on a Zoom with media Wednesday. “We know how competitive it is. We love the fact that the league is going to a neutral site for women’s basketball, it’s something that is emphasized by the league.” 

Watson also has multiple ties to the A-10. He served as St. Bonaventure’s director of athletics from 2007-2014, as the director of marketing and promotions at Dayton from 1999-2001 and he played at Rutgers for two years while it was in the A-10.

“All the way around, it’s a great addition for women’s basketball,” A-10 Commissioner Bernadette V. McGlade said. “I think you saw earlier, we announced that we’re going to be back at a neutral site at the Chase Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware … We will have yet another generation of a fan base. And as you know, all of our athletes, our women’s basketball, men’s basketball, whatever, the student-athletes just love to play in front of arenas that are full with avid, rabid fans. So, I think that, certainly, it’s something we’re looking forward to.”

McGlade noted that as of now the conference is still intending to bring every institution to the conference championship, but has not yet decided on a new format that will accommodate fifteen teams. 

“It gives the A-10 another powerful brand,” national women’s basketball analyst Debbie Antonelli told The Next. “The A-10 has typically been a multiple bid league. And so this gives them another strong team that will contend for championships and help their brand improve.”

With the addition of Loyola, the A-10 will be in seven of the top 30 media markets (New York (1), Chicago (2), Philadelphia (4), Washington, D.C. (9), Charlotte (22), St. Louis (23) and Pittsburgh (26)). Including Loyola, the A-10 will have schools in states that make up about 33 percent of the national media market. 

Antonelli believes that the league’s expansion into the Chicago market will help the A-10 when it is time for the conference to renegotiate its television contracts. 

The conference is in its ninth year of television agreements with NBC Sports, CBS Sports and ESPN that were all extended last year. 

As of this season, Loyola has never made the NCAA Tournament and finished as the runner-up in the Horizon League conference tournament final in 1987 and 2013. In 2021, the Ramblers earned their first postseason berth in the Women’s Basketball Invitational. 

In the last 10 years, the A-10 has had 17 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, including eight at-large bids. In the last decade, 12 of the 14 member schools have made the postseason with at least four teams qualifying for postseason play each year during that span. 

“Bernie [Bernadette V. McGlade] says all the time we’re a basketball-centric league and that’s men’s and women’s basketball,” Watson said. “So for us, we’re excited about the opportunity to go in there and we feel that we have a program that can compete right from the beginning.”

Written by Natalie Heavren

Natalie Heavren has been covering women’s basketball since February 2019 and currently covers both the Atlantic 10 and the WNBA.

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