Not surprisingly, Jim Boeheim is snickering at the suggestions of wholesale changes for the Big East. With another summer of hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing over what will ever become of the poor, ol’ oversized basketball conference with its unwieldy scheduling and uninspired football slate, The Per’fesser is once again reminding everyone to just chill out.
“In basketball, we have the best post-season conference tournament in the country. We’re the only one who sells it out. We’re spread out in wonderful markets. And now we include Texas. We’ve got a lot of assets between the 17 of us. I don’t think there are any have-to’s in any of our scenarios.”
As Calhoun-Bot 3000 hysterically predicts the impending splitting of the league, Boeheim has countered that with a “dude, that’s not happening” company line. Quite frankly, we’d be wise to listen to Boeheim first. While the Big East lost some football traction when Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech left, basketball hasn’t missed a beat and almost a decade later the conference is still standing. As the Big 10 expanded, the Pac-10 grew and the Big 12 almost dissolved, the Big East has survived and even prospered.
While most predicted a swift death for the Big East, Boeheim is cackling. The league has a sold-out MSG in March (as he notes, the only conference tourney that is), more teams in the Big Dance then ever before, and the addition of football power TCU.
The nonsense that surrounds the “will they, won’t they” of Villanova or the hokey pokey with Army and Navy is just cocktail hour chatter. Would the Big East love 12 legitimate football teams? Yes. Is that realistic? Not really. But minus the Big East title game, the conference is feeling good about itself. Or at least Boeheim is.
“We’re always going to have a good basketball league. We’ve gone from eight to 17 now and we’re still one of the best basketball leagues in the country. That’s not going to change.”
He’s one of the founding fathers of the Big East and as stubborn as he is about his precious 2-3 zone, Boeheim refuses to believe anything but the best for the league. He’s probably right. Unless there’s mass exodus, basketball will always have the strength of the Syracuse, Georgetown and UConn brands. Football will continue to have top-grade facilities at places like Pitt and Rutgers. The TV deals for the widely-recognized greatest hoops league in the country with New York, Philadelphia and D.C. roots will never run dry.
Life at the Big East isn’t perfect, but Boeheim knows something he’s living proof of: By not panicking and maintaining a level of success, you can outlast almost everyone.