The Big East is dealing with a potential defection by the basketball-only schools, which could mean the nail in the coffin for the league. The ship has taken on water since the departures of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College in ’04. But once Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia said good bye within a few months of one another, it looked bleak for the best basketball conference in the nation.
For the ACC and the Big 10, poaching the Big East was easy because it was the only conference that placed hoops over football. In a landscape that heavily leans toward the gridiron financially, this was a no-win situation. The Big East was fighting tradition versus money. In the eyes of some this was admirable. In the eyes of most it was moronic. It didn’t help that the commissioner was ham n’ egger John Marinatto, who always seemed much more prepared to change a light socket than be a power broker in modern college athletics.
For those calling the addition of a school like Tulane embarrassing is far too late. The minute Boise State, San Diego State and SMU entered the conversation the brand of the Big East was forever tarnished. Louisville used the Big East as a middle man between C-USA and the ACC. The seven remaining basketball schools have finally said enough is enough. The only question is why did it take so long?
Wasn’t the hoops contingent embarrassed when the conference contoured its geography around Miss South Carolina 2007’s concepts? Where was the basketball schools when SU, Pitt and WVU bolted? Now Rutgers and UofL flee and it’s finally time to take a stand?
What made the Big East great was also what killed it. In modern college sports, basketball being king is a dangerous situation. SU’s rivalries with Villanova, Georgetown and UConn didn’t mean nearly enough because they weren’t there on the gridiron. This isn’t unique to the Big East either. Kansas and Missouri had a century-long blood feud, which is now on the shelf. Maryland left annual showdowns with Duke to play Purdue in football.
In the football world the basketball rivalries we long for are long gone. However, the remaining Big East schools should maintain those matchups and hold on to the tradition. The basketball-only programs should save their dignity and conference brand, and allow their tournament at Madison Square Garden to still have juice. Tulane, SMU, East Carolina and UCF aren’t going to do that.
There are also basketball reasons to try and break away. For the Hoyas and Wildcats and Johnnies, who wants the conference RPI to be dragged down by terrible football schools? This should also be about pride. Why not take a stand and save what you helped build? The Big East’s greatest strength is basketball, so use that to help save it from from completely dissolving into oblivion. Better late than never.
Posted: Craig Hoffman