- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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A year ago, the Atlantic 10 announced that it would be moving its conference tournament to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. At the time, this didn't feel like a major development. Sure, it was positive -- the A-10 wanted to boost its profile in New York City, and postseason event at the house Jay-Z and/or Bruce Ratner built is as good a means as any by which to do it -- but it still felt like the same old Atlantic 10: a good, but hardly must-see, top-to-bottom basketball league.
A year later, the Barclays move almost feels prophetic. Because the Atlantic 10 is on the rise.
Why? On Tuesday, the conference announced its latest TV deal, and even if you sift through some of the PR stuff -- warning, TV market information ahoy! -- the results were undeniably impressive. From the A-10 release:
The Atlantic 10 Conference has secured eight-year partnerships with ESPN, CBS Sports Network and NBC Sports Group for its media and television rights. The agreements, which were announced Tuesday, more than double the men's and women's basketball national exposure for the A-10 membership and will begin in 2013-14.
The new agreements will give the league unprecedented reach, distribution and marketing, allowing the Atlantic 10 to better serve its fans in its extensive media footprint and to leverage the promotional platforms and marketing assets of these three major national media companies. The A-10 is in seven of the top 25 media markets, including four of the top 10. Beginning in 2013-14, all 14 conference members will be in the top 65 media markets in the country and the Atlantic 10 media footprint will reach over 33 million television households, which is approximately 33 percent of the US television market.
The A-10 has always been a good, or at least solid, basketball league. In 2012-13, with the added realignment teams and the likes of Temple yet to depart, the A-10 could be one of the three or four best hoops leagues in the country. It's not a guarantee, but it'll be close. And then, just as people start getting used to good A-10 basketball, in 2013-14 they'll be able to watch it more frequently than at any time in the past.
When you combine this TV deal -- which, again, doubles the number of nationally televised Atlantic 10 games available to fans in a wide range of markets -- with the additions the conference made in realignment this year (household-name programs like Butler and VCU), the end result is a league that feels stronger than it ever has before.