If the old adage of “Where there is smoke, there is fire,” has a shred of truth to it, Butler University President James Danko appears to be standing off to the side of the blaze fanning the flames.
Danko's university is being mentioned in national reports almost daily as a prospective athletic member of a potential new conference being formed by seven departing members of the Big East Conference. On Monday, Danko did little to dispel those reports by issuing a statement that essentially gave no clear indication of what the future held for Bulldog athletics.
“I greatly respect - and agree with - the collective conviction of the “Catholic 7” to control their own destiny or someone else will,” Danko's statement read. “Butler, too, has controlled its destiny proactively, for example, when it made the decision to join the outstanding Atlantic 10 Conference and through its values-based approach to athletics.”
Butler joined the Atlantic 10 in May of this year after being a charter member of the Horizon League since the late 1970s.
The “Catholic 7” universities include DePaul, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Villanova, Seton Hall, and Georgetown, and they announced this weekend that each would leave the Big East Conference.
So is Danko inferring that the nationally-prominent Bulldog men's basketball program will remain in the Atlantic 10?
“Our administrators, our coaches, our trustees and our team will continue to do what is right for Butler and its students,” Danko 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.”
Butler is being sought due to the fact that it has elevated its stature on the national collegiate basketball scene over the past decade – but more significantly over the past three seasons.
“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.
Over the past 16 seasons, Butler has advanced to 10 NCAA Tournaments, including four Sweet 16 appearances in the past 10 seasons.
The ascension reached its peak – not once, but twice – when the Bulldogs advanced to the National Championship game in both 2010 and 2011. This past week, the Bulldogs beat top-ranked and previously unbeaten Indiana 88-86 in overtime.
Butler has won 10 of its last 14 games against Big Ten opponents and climbed to No. 19 in this week's national poll.
“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,” Danko said. “This national prestige naturally leads to speculation about Butler's athletic future.”