"People who come here and see us and what we're about and know what we've accomplished in 25 years would struggle to put any 'mid' label on us," Xavier athletic director Mike Bobinski said. "We've been to 17 NCAA Tournaments. We've had 20 20-plus win seasons. Our arena has been filled to 96 percent capacity. We've had 11 BCS conference home-and-homes in the last six years. That's not 'mid' anything."
Atlantic 10 commissioner Linda Bruno backed the Musketeers' stance. "I really am puzzled why anyone would consider us a mid-major," she said. "It's a term you really don't need. It got started because the media use football terms for basketball leagues. Give people credit for what they're good at. The term is derogatory."
What defines a basketball "major?" Bruno is right when she speaks of football terms: Typically it's a team from a BCS conference. But those teams also are majors because of their leagues' ability to secure NCAA Tournament bids. In the past eight seasons, the A-10 has gotten more than three teams into the NCAAs once.
Since 1981, the Ratings Percentage Index has been one of the factors used by the NCAA when it selects its tournament field. Basically, the RPI measures a team's strength of schedule and how that team does against that schedule; the site of the game matters but not the margin of victory.
TOP 10 CONFERENCE RPIs
2. Big East
4. Big 12
5. Big Ten
7. Missouri Valley
8. Atlantic 10
10. Mountain West
A-10 TEAMS IN THE RPI
Rank. Team, record
8. Xavier 12-3
9. Dayton 12-1
15. Massachusetts 11-3
18. Rhode Island 14-1
49. Duquesne 10-3
58. Saint Joseph's 7-4
67. Temple 6-6
112. Saint Louis 9-5
158. Richmond 7-6
161. Charlotte 8-5
184. Fordham 6-6
226. George Washington 4-6
253. La Salle 4-8
263. St. Bonaventure 6-8
NOTE: RPI figures from collegerpi.com, through Tuesday's games.
Bruno was quick to point out that the Atlantic 10 is eighth in the RPI this season, and that "that isn't mid-anything." She went on to say that she believes a mid-major would be "down at 12, 13, 14."
There are 31 basketball-playing conferences. You could break them down and say 1-10 are "high majors," 11-20 "mid-majors" and 21-31 "low majors." Is that befitting? If so, the Atlantic 10, with an RPI finish of 10th in 2007, 11th in 2006 and 15th in 2005, isn't far from the middle.
The league is off to an exceptional start this season, even documented by Rivals.com. But while four of its 14 members are in the top 20 in the RPI, six are below No. 150. As a comparison, one of 12 ACC teams is below 150; two of 16 Big East teams are below 150; one of 12 Big 12 schools is below 150; three of 11 Big Ten schools are below 150; one of 10 Pac-10 schools is below 150; and four of 12 SEC schools are below 150.
"The media is the one grouping conferences together," Bruno said. "I can pick out teams in BCS conferences that you wouldn't consider major except for the company they keep."
Bobinski said it was too easy to lump teams together and that he wished for more "analysis and understanding."
"We're not doing anything that feels like less than the highest level of commitment," he said.
Rivals added the mid-major award this year in order to recognize players outside the BCS conferences. Bruno said not to bother calling any A-10 schools about the award in the future.
"I would suggest that you don't," Bruno said. "It's up to the schools, but I don't think you're going to get any takers."
Bob McClellan is the college basketball editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.