No Need to Cry over “Death” of Big East
By Rick Ucchino
Football and Money are king in college sports. Those two things are what has caused the geometric shift in the conference landscape as the Big 10, Pac-12, SEC, ACC, and Big 12 are plucking schools left and right to solidify their “conference superiority.” The one conference who has clearly been pillaged the most is the Big East. It started 10 years ago when Miami (FL) and Boston College left for the ACC. That allowed Louisville and Cincinnati to step up into a major conference and created arguably the best basketball conference ever assembled. Too bad that football is king, and the Big East didn’t want any part of it.
The Big East survived for several years with a huge 18 school power basketball conference, while their 8 school football conference was widely considered the weak link of the 6 major football conferences. Then other power conferences, hungry for money and power, started plucking schools for hopes of reaching more media markets to further spread their brand.
Four schools bolted from the Big 12 and the conference nearly lost Texas and Oklahoma to the Pac-12 which would have been the end of the Big 12. Instead Texas stayed which caused them to take West Virginia and TCU from the Big East. The Big 10 decided to expand to 14, so they nabbed Maryland from the ACC and Rutgers from the Big East. The loss of Maryland made the ACC not only replace them, but expand. Bye Bye Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and Notre Dame. All 4 of them booked for the ACC giving them 15 basketball schools and 14 football schools. This then forced the 7 Catholic schools left in the Big East to throw their hands up and say they’ve had enough.
This event has brought us to where we are today. The end of a great basketball conference, but unlike the likes of Mick Cronin and Jim Boeheim, I honestly don’t find it to be that big of a deal. Too many coaches are too nostalgic over the “death” of the Big East. You heard it over and over during this year’s Big East Tournament, from coaches, former players, and analysts. All of them too focused on the past and not excited about the future. What’s better than one really good basketball conference? How about TWO really good basketball conferences.
Let’s put the left over unnamed football conference aside for right now. Lets first take a look at the new ACC: Duke, North Carolina, NC State, Florida St, Clemson, Miami (FL), Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Virginia, and Wake Forest. You know what that sounds like to me? The OLD Big East minus the Catholic 7; plus Duke and North Carolina. Eight of those fifteen schools are in this year’s NCAA Tournament, with another two making the NIT. Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville, and Notre Dame fighting it out for the ACC title every year? Are you kidding me? That just makes for awesome basketball in February and March!
Now, let’s take a look at the New Big East: Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, Providence, St. Johns, Seton Hall, DePaul and with the official announcement made today, Xavier, Creighton, and Butler. This is a conference of ten really competitive basketball schools. Half the league is in this years NCAA tournament. One team notably not in this year’s dance is Xavier. I’d like to point out it’s just the 2nd time they’ve not been in since 1999. So I expect Chris Mack and company to make a quick turn around. Make no mistake, this is going to be a fun conference to watch. More importantly it’s STILL the Big East and they’re STILL playing their conference tournament at Madison Square Garden. There is no need to cry over the death of a conference that isn’t dead. For all the schools in the ACC and Big East, this is going to work out just fine and make for some really fun basketball.
Now, back to those left overs. As a former UC student and current Bearcats beat writer, the future of this conference is something I’m going to keep a close eye on. Right now, of all the schools involved in conference realignment, these 12 schools are the clear losers. Cincinnati, UConn, South Florida, and the nine incoming schools are left in a nameless conference that has no tradition, a TV deal full of out clauses, and a bleak future. The nine schools who are coming in should just turn around and run now because this new conference is doomed from the get go.
The second the Big 10 decides to expand again, it’s going to be from the ACC, most likely Virginia and Florida St. Which will open up two new spots in for (Hopefully) Cincinnati and UConn. The second that happens, the new TV deal from ESPN goes away, and this conference is officially left with Memphis and South Florida as it’s biggest hitters. You might as well just call this group the Annexation of Conference USA.
I don’t know what they are going to call this new conference, or how successful it’s going to be (although I can speculate). I do know that sooner or later UC and UConn will get to the ACC. I also know that with the Big 10 looking for markets and not skill on the hardwood, they are likely to take two teams that finished in the bottom half of the ACC this year. Meaning the two slots in the ACC will be filled with two schools that will improve the marketability of ACC basketball.
Don’t pout that the Big East is “gone.” Embrace the future of two conferences that will provide great basketball for years to come… At least until the Big 10 goes to 20 teams.
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