Charlotte fans aren't happy that their team is in the Atlantic 10 and coach Bobby Lutz apparently isn't too thrilled either. Lutz has turned down a six-year deal from South Alabama -- from the much lower-rated Sun Belt Conference -- and opted to stay at Charlotte, where he has two years left on a contract that pays $400,000 a year. South Alabama was offering only $300,000.
Why would Lutz think about going to a lower-rated league for less money? For starters, he's coming off a 14-16 season and has not received a contract extension. But the 49ers, who made the NCAA Tournament eight times from 1995-2005, have not gone in either year they've been in the A-10 and the school has been hugely disappointed by its move to the league. Once a lock to get at least three and perhaps as many as five NCAA bids a season, the Atlantic 10 is struggling to get more than one now.
Part of the problem is that big names like Temple, UMass and Saint Joseph's are in rebuilding mode and only Xavier seems to be a perennial postseason team. Another reason is that bottom-feeders like St. Bonaventure, La Salle, Richmond and Duquesne have been ruining the league's RPI with brutal seasons. Charlotte ended up in the A-10 when its former Conference USA rivals Cincinnati, Louisville, Marquette and DePaul all went to the Big East. Only Memphis stayed behind in C-USA and the 49ers probably wish they had as well.
"Our fans need to take some time to get over not having Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis, Marquette and DePaul and those type people coming into our building," Lutz told the Associated Press on Monday. "We had a winning record against those teams overall. I think, over time, our people will understand how good the A-10 is. Right now, it's been difficult."