35th Anniversary - Feature 3
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When Charlie Theokas took over as the Atlantic 10's second commissioner in 1984, the league had already begun to establish a foothold as a viable conference under the leadership of its first commissioner, Dr. Leland Byrd. The A-10 was ready to step up to a new level of national prominence, and it adopted a simple yet effective message for promoting the league and its members: Think Atlantic 10. The new slogan was quickly accepted by the A-10's schools, fans and media, which led to increased visibility and recognition. The league's push for increased national exposure was at its highest in 1986, when three A-10 teams earned bids to the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship for the first time in league history.
Ron Bertovich was named the A-10's third commissioner in May of 1986. Bertovich was a familiar face to the league, having served as the A-10's information director from 1982 to 1984, was named an assistant commissioner in 1984 and served as interim commissioner on two occasions, once in 1984 and again in 1986, prior to getting the full-time job. When Bertovich took over, he inherited a league on the rise. During the 1986-87 season, A-10 men's basketball teams appeared on major television networks such as ESPN, CBS and NBC. Those appearances, combined with numerous regional and local television packages, meant that A-10 teams were featured in some of the country's biggest media markets, and the number of major network appearances grew steadily in the following years. The league's exposure continued to increase when it launched a regional A-10 television network and produced basketball games of the week. The A-10 Network proved to be a valuable outlet for increased visibility as it would later be honored with three Mid-Atlantic Emmy Awards.
|One of three Mid-Atlantic Emmy's|
awarded to the Atlantic 10 Network
Contributing to the overall success of the 1986-87 season was the fact that several A-10 players and coaches received national recognition for their performance during the year. Temple head coach John Chaney was named National Coach of the Year by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, while Temple guard Nate Blackwell was selected as a Second-Team All American by Basketball Weekly magazine and a Third-Team All American by UPI and Basketball Times magazine. Blackwell was later a second-round pick of the San Antonia Spurs (27th overall) in the 1987 NBA Draft. In addition, three A-10 teams earned postseason appearances, with Temple and West Virginia playing in the NCAA Tournament and Rhode Island receiving a bid to the National Invitational Tournament (NIT).
|Rutgers' Theresa Grentz|
1987 Converse National Coach of the Year
The 1986-87 season also proved to be a groundbreaking year for A-10 women's basketball, with three league teams - Penn State, Rutgers and St. Joseph's - earning bids to the NCAA tournament, with Rutgers making a run to the Elite Eight for the second year in a row. It marked the second straight season that the A-10 had three teams participate in the NCAA Tournament, and each of the three teams spent the majority of the season ranked in the Top 25. A-10 players and coaches received numerous individual honors during the season as well. Rutgers coach Theresa Grentz took home the Converse National Coach of the Year Award, while Rutgers senior Sue Wicks was named a Kodak All-American. Penn State senior Suzie McConnell, who currently serves as head coach of the Duquesne women's basketball team, also led the nation in assists. Fans certainly took notice of the banner year, as the A-10 set records for both total and average attendance and ranked fourth in the nation in overall attendance.
|Suzie McConnell-Serio, currently the head coach at Duquesne,|
led the nation in assists at Penn State during the 86-87 season
Success on the court was mirrored by success in other areas as well, and while men's and women's basketball helped put the A-10 on the map, the league's commitment to academics and equity also helped it prosper under the watch of Bertovich. In addition to gradually increasing the number of championships that it sponsored, the A-10 highlighted and celebrated the academic and athletic achievements of student-athletes by introducing Academic All-Conference teams in all sponsored sports in 1990. The league also named a male and female Scholar Athlete of the Year and began awarding Post-Graduate scholarships to deserving male and female student athletes.
By increasing the visibility of the conference, creating more opportunities for male and female student-athletes and promoting academic achievements, the Atlantic 10 had become one of the top conferences in the country and was poised to continue its growth in the years to come.
Scroll through and click the icons below for the membership history of each institution.