Last week, the Big East announced that Tulane University and East Carolina University had accepted invitations to join the conference in 2014 -- Tulane in all sports and East Carolina as an associate member for football only. Feel free to read that sentence again to grasp its absurdity. The best analogy I’ve seen regarding the Big East’s illogical expansion over the past few years is that they are the conference that stayed at the bar far too long. While the Pac-12, SEC, ACC, and Big 10 went home hours ago with the likes of Colorado, Missouri, Syracuse, and Maryland – the Big East ordered another round of shots, looked around, and realized it was desperation time so they stumbled over to talk to SMU and Houston. Judgment clouded by the lure of football dollars when they should have just realized it was time to go home.
Home for the Big East is men’s basketball. Football was never supposed to be the focus of the Big East conference, but they began dancing with the devil in 1991 when the presidents voted to invite the University of Miami - a school with absolutely no basketball pedigree but a great football team - to join as a full member. Here we are 21 years later and the time has come for the Big East to find its roots. The non-football playing members need to break off and create their own conference - a basketball super-conference.
The core is already intact: St. Johns, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Villanova, Providence, DePaul, and Marquette are all members that either don’t play football or whose football programs play in the lower Championship Subdivision. The presidents of these schools need to reach out to other like-minded Universities, and there are two obvious ones that would be perfect fits: Butler and Xavier. Both have very strong programs featuring recent deep NCAA tournament runs; both reside in good-sized cities (Indianapolis and Cincinnati respectively); and neither has a football program playing at the BCS level. They should also look at a school like St. Joseph’s in Philadelphia, a natural rival for Villanova and a school with a rich basketball tradition and no football team. That would create a core of ten basketball programs, primarily in big eastern cities, with either great tradition or tremendous recent success. Ideally, you would like a conference with twelve programs, so from there they should try to cherry pick two more schools with similar resumes (George Washington? UMass? Virginia Commonwealth?). One would think a conference with such a makeup would attract a lot of exclusive television rights, be extremely competitive nationally in both competition and recruiting, and would be able to generate enough revenue to fund the schools’ other athletic programs.
And they should fight like hell to retain the name Big East. The name means something in basketball, and the bastardized current football playing version includes San Diego State, which is east of what exactly? Hawaii? It’s time for someone to call the Big East a taxi, explain to them how drunk they are, and tell them that it’s time to go home.
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