Butler addresses 'Catholic 7' rumor

INDIANAPOLIS -- Butler president James Danko is not changing his mind.

Two days after telling The Associated Press he wouldn't completely rule out the possibility of joining a new conference, Danko issued a statement that will likely keep the conference realignment talk buzzing.

"Our administrators, our coaches, our trustees and our team will continue to do what is right for Butler and its students," he said. "Decisions will be made, first and foremost, with the university's strong values and the Butler Way at heart. Our uncompromising commitments to integrity, to placing one's team above oneself, and to the academic and personal growth of each of our student-athletes will remain paramount."

In other words, the school is keeping its options open.

When word leaked last week that seven Catholic schools in the Big East were looking to leave the conference and form their own league, Butler was one of the first names to pop up as a possible new member. Since then, the parties involved have done nothing to dissuade such talk.

An Atlantic 10 spokesman said the league would not immediately respond to the reports, and Butler athletic director Barry Collier has declined to comment on any potential move. During the second half of Butler's 88-86 upset of No. 1 Indiana on Saturday, Danko was asked whether he would completely rule out the speculation.

"I'd rather not talk about it until something happens," he told The AP.

Something has already happened -- regardless of what role Butler could play.

On Saturday, Villanova, Georgetown, St. John's, DePaul, Marquette, Providence and Seton Hall decided to officially separate from the Big East and construct a basketball-centric league.

Whether the Bulldogs will be involved in this next round of realignment remains unclear.

Some reports have indicated Xavier and Butler, both of the Atlantic 10, are two schools the "Catholic 7" would like to include in a 10- or 12-team league, even though Butler is not a Catholic institution and would likely be one of the smaller schools in the new conference.

What Butler does have, though, is a national reputation as a strong basketball school, a city with an NBA arena that could host the conference tourney and a television market in a basketball-crazed state that could be an attractive option for a network. Local officials have said they have had no contact with the Catholic schools about playing the league tourney in Indy, which already has a deal to host the Big Ten men's and women's tournaments in even-numbered years through 2016.

The Bulldogs (8-2) have been to two of the last three national championship games, upset a No. 1 team for the first time in school history Saturday and debuted at No. 19 in this week's Top 25.

"The fact that Butler is now being mentioned prominently as a potential candidate to join the 'Catholic 7' universities in a new athletic league, is a tribute to the success of our athletic program overall and our men's basketball team, in particular," Danko said. "Our team has proven consistently and continuously that it is one of the very best in the nation, and that they are one of the biggest brands in men's college basketball. This national prestige naturally leads to speculation about Butler's athletic future."

Wherever that future lies.

Some alums and faculty members were unhappy when the Bulldogs announced in May they were leaving their longtime conference home, the Horizon League, for the Atlantic 10. The move was not expected to take place until 2013-14, but officials from Butler and both leagues later announced the move would be expedited and that the Bulldogs would begin Atlantic 10 play this fall. Butler will make its league debut Jan. 9 at St. Joseph's.