MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — The Atlantic 10 Conference started intra-league play last week, still lacking a television package that would provide exposure needed to compete with other major conferences for recruits and funding.
Conference Commissioner Charlie Theokas has set as his top priority improving the league's image, citing acquisition of a television package as a major step toward accomplishing that goal.
Theokas had hoped to have one signed by this month, but an agreement has not yet been reached, assistant Commissioner Ron Bertovich said.
"Charlie is still talking to some people for the February games and even the post-season tournament," Bertovich said from his East Rutherford, N.J., office. "Right now, there is no conference package."
The conference is not without television coverage--several schools in the league have signed locally syndicated television packages. But conferences with which the Atlantic 10 competes--the Big East and the Atlantic Coast Conference--both have major television contracts. This has tended to give those leagues more visibility in more recruiting areas, in addition to more money for their programs.
Theokas, who four months ago succeeded Leland Byrd as the conference commissioner, said when he was hired that his top priority would be to win recognition for the league.
"We don't have a bad image," Theokas said at the time. "We just don't have an image."
Theokas was not available for comment Thursday, Bertovich said.
Several schools in the league, which includes Duquesne, George Washington, Massachusetts, Penn State, Rhode Island, Rutgers, St. Bonaventure, St. Joseph's, Temple, and West Virginia, have their own packages.
West Virginia is televising nine games this season over its Mountaineer Sports Network. Other league members with packages with local syndicators are George Washington, Rutgers, Temple and St. Joe's, said Bertovich.
In June 1983, the league signed a 40-game contract that Byrd had said could generate $1 million for the Atlantic 10. But just as conference play was heating up last January, the syndicator cut the package in half, saying it couldn't line up enough stations in the league's 12-state region.
Six months later, the Atlantic 10 filed suit, arguing that 22 games broadcast on 15 dates were telecast without payment.