Sunday, December 23, 2012

Conference Call

     The Big East: When you hear the name as a sports fan, you automatically think of the basketball greatness that the Big East possesses. You also think of how lackluster many of the conference's football programs are (Connecticut playing in the 2010 Fiesta Bowl only to get pummeled by Oklahoma? C'mon now). But what you probably don't know is the implosion within the conference that rapidly taking place right now. Was it a need for some quality football programs in spite of the geographical locations? Was it about the money? Who knows what is causing this to happen.
     One major move was the "Catholic 7" schools announcing on December 15 that they would leave the Big East and make their own conference in basketball. Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, St. Johns, Providence, DePaul, and Seton Hall had voted unanimously to leave the Big East and form their own conference. The new conference would include five more schools (Xavier, Creighton, and Butler, to name a few). The departure from the Big East was a response to the conference realignment that was going on, which mainly revolved around football. Their departure would be effective around the 2015-2016 school year.
     To make matters worse, the Big East is also losing schools to the ACC. Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse are departing the Big East to compete against the likes of Duke and Florida State as soon as next year. Notre Dame will be joining the ACC as well, competing in the ACC in all sports except football. Not only that, but Rutgers is leaving the Big East for the Big Ten around the 2014-2015 school year. The Big East has already lost West Virginia to the Big 12 this year and there might be more moves on the way.
     So who's replacing the migrating schools in the Big East? SMU, San Diego State, Boise State, Houston, Central Florida, Temple, Navy, Tulane, East Carolina, and Memphis are the schools replacing the previous departures. San Diego State, Boise State, Navy, and East Carolina would join as football-only members. The problem is that for football, only Boise State and San Diego State are respectable competitors. As for basketball, Memphis and Temple are the only schools that are really good. But even Boise State is having ongoing discussions with the Mountain West Conference to stay due to the Big East's instability. It's also possible that the Big East could lose its automatic BCS berth going into the new playoff format in 2014.
     Where did the Big East go wrong? For starters, the exit fees of the schools leaving to join the Big East is a problem. The schools are committing millions in exit fees to join the Big East, leaving some schools like Boise State to reconsider their move to the Big East. Most of these schools joining aren't even competitive in either football or basketball. Now Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco has reportedly contacted UNLV and Fresno State about joining the conference in an attempt to salvage the Big East. So for the "Big East", you'd likely have Fresno State, Boise State, San Diego State, UNLV, SMU, and Houston competing in the conference.
     That leads me to my next point, which is the amount of travel that the schools would have to undertake. I'm pretty sure that no one playing on San Diego State's football team is looking forward to losing three hours to traveling to Connecticut or to Tampa. Traveling also would be more costly, for you'd be spending a lot more on gas for whatever travel method you'd have going to opposite coasts (airline or by team bus; I don't know which one these schools use). The Big East has tried on many occasions to look past geographical locations of the schools and build a conference based on competitiveness. Take TCU, for example. TCU was supposed to join the Big East this year, but backed out and went to the Big 12. Boise State's reconsidering its move as well, which means that geographical locations is crucial in terms of fiscal matters. Location is also key in building up quality rivalries (i.e. Michigan and Ohio State). Another problem is that the Big East is looking for schools to join their conference that can compete in both football and basketball. The Big East has always been a basketball conference, producing champions such as Syracuse and Connecticut over the past decade or two. But they're replacing most of these schools with schools that despite having both football and basketball programs, aren't really competitive. A better solution would be to look to small private schools that are respectable basketball programs (Bucknell or Davidson, anyone?).
     Any way you look at it, the Big East is in serious trouble. The conference must find a way to secure long-time members who won't bolt for more money in other conferences such as the ACC and the Big Ten. They'll need to do whatever it takes to find a way to keep its conference afloat.


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