GREEN BAY - Butler has dominated the men's basketball landscape in the Horizon League for over a decade. The Bulldogs have won 10 conference titles and 7 tournament titles since 1997, but that era of dominance is coming to a close.
The University announced Wednesday they will leave the Horizon for the Atlantic-10 following the 2013-2014 school year. Their loss, is the rest of the league, including Green Bay's gain.
The Phoenix haven't won the men's basketball title since 1996 and the league tourney since the year before. They feel they have the blueprint to become what commissioner Jon LeCrone calls an at-large team.
Head Coach Brian Wardle says it begins with the young men on the floor.
"It comes down to recruiting. You have to have the players and you have to get good players, bottom line, players make the coach look good. So it's going out, getting good players and it's scheduling. I think your non-conference schedule, your strength of schedule is key. We've obviously proven in Green Bay we're taking that step forward."
Green Bay director of athletics Ken Bothof added, "If you can make some multiple trips in consecutive years to the NCAA tournament, it gives you more exposure, more opportunities for recruits, it does open some doors for the other programs."
The Horizon has been through this scenario before seeing teams like Xavier and Dayton leave, only to be replaced by Butler. Horizon commissioner Jon LeCrone believes someone will step into the void as the league's top team.
"You've got to have the right people, you've got to have the right facilities and I think we have a number of schools who are very very close to that."
The Horizon had maintained its current 10-team membership for a decade prior to today, something both Bothof and Wardle think is good for the fans.
"I know from our fan base even we've started to enjoy the other league schools come in now."
They like the repetition of the teams coming in every year and learning their roster and their program a little bit that plays Green Bay, said Wardle.
Wardle went on to say, that should they remain a 9 team league, the added non-conference games could be beneficial as well, particularly if they can schedule high RPI teams.
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