The Big East is a complete mess.
Without a commissioner, now with football teams in California, Idaho, and Texas, the conference, once known for its gritty big-city basketball wars, has no real identity.
What’s more, the inevitable conflict between football and basketball schools is untenable long term. The basketball schools don’t won’t to play a weakened slate of conference games with teams that no one in their footprint cares about at all.
Georgetown – Central Florida for all the marbles just doesn’t have much of a ring to it.
And the football schools the Big East is adding, Memphis and Temple excepted, bring little to the table over the past couple of decades.
So is it time for a basketball-centric move? Could the Big East basketball schools form a Catholic league?
Right now the football schools are the destabilizing force in the conference. Louisville, and maybe Cincinnati too, is holding out fervent hope that the Big 12 will extend an offer while Rutgers and UConn continue to pine for the ACC.
There’s zero stability in the Big East when it comes to football schools.
Add to this instability the looming television negotiations where the league wants a robust $180 million a year and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Hell, how many of y’all can even keep up with the existing Big East football members?
Here’s the football list for 2012: Temple, Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers, UConn, South Florida, Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Come 2013 the league looks like this: Temple, Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers, UConn, South Florida, Pittsburgh (maybe), Syracuse (maybe), Houston, Southern Methodist, Central Florida, Memphis, Boise State, and San Diego State.
Of these 14 teams, two are already leaving for the ACC, two more would kill to leave for the ACC, and two more would hold Senate hearings to join the Big 12.
That means your future Big East could look like this: Temple, South Florida, Houston, SMU, either Rutgers or UConn, Central Florida, Memphis, Boise State, San Diego State, and Navy (set to join in 2015).
If you’re one of the seven solid basketball schools left in the Big East, why would you stay involved with such a dysfunctional and fractious football culture when all it does is hurt your brand?
Especially when every year from 2012 on the quality of your basketball opponents continues to deteriorate.
In 1979 the Big East was formed as a basketball conference, why can’t the seven basketball schools form a new conference built around basketball once more?
Georgetown, Providence, Villanova, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Marquette, and DePaul are all private, Catholic colleges.
So is Notre Dame, which plays with the Big East in basketball.
Why couldn’t those seven schools — and Notre Dame if it would agree to play in the conference — combine with the A-10’s Catholic schools: Dayton, Xavier, St. Louis, and either St. Joe’s, La Salle, or Fordham to form a 12 team basketball-centric league located in major media markets? (Creighton would also kill to be in this conference).
If you really wanted to get brave, you could even contemplate adding Gonzaga and St. Mary’s — or another Catholic West Coast Conference school that has been successful in basketball — and set up two divisions, an east and west conference that has some decent national appeal and limits travel.
(Divisions wouldn’t be necessary at all, but could be used to make scheduling easier. Play every team in your division twice and the other schools once).
The Catholic West could be:
The Catholic East could be:
Notre Dame or whichever additional catholic A-10 school you selected
Just giving this conference an eyeball test, how many NCAA tourney bids would it get a year?
On average, five or six, right?
You could continue to play your conference tournament in Madison Square Garden, sell a basketball only television rights package that would distribute substantial money to solid members who you knew weren’t going to ever leave, and create a strong national brand rooted in a common faith.
What’s more, you aren’t really leaving very many good basketball only schools behind by making the Catholic league. And you gain much more from the unique brand you create. That brand would hit many of the nation’s major media markets, would make for great rivalries, solid academics, and a distinct national brand without a peer in today’s collegiate sports market.
Given the fact that football schools are going to get the lion’s share of the money in a newly reformatted 18 member Big East — that’s assuming the conference even gets a large television deal — are you really leaving very much money on the table by forming a basketball only league?
Isn’t that league worth at least $60 million a year? If so, you’re basically even right now with the money that you get from the Big East’s current deal.
And aren’t you buying security and peace of mind for decades to come with any money you do leave behind?
Of course, this means we’ll never get to see a yearly Big East rivalry game between Boise State and St. John’s.
How will the Big East’s basketball schools ever survive in a football mad collegiate universe?
Just maybe, on a wing and a Hail Mary.