College Presidents Skirt Big East Expansion Issues

The issue of conference expansion came up during a meeting of college presidents during the Big East basketball tournament in New York, according to University of Louisville President James Ramsey. This is the first public indication that the presidents have acknowledged a possible crisis for the conference.

Ramsey said something to the effect that it was time the presidents stopped ignoring the elephant in the room. “It’s an area of concern for all of us,” he said. “We need to be prepared.”

And they talked about the issue, in what had to be one of the most generic discussions in conference history. There’s no indication of a committee being formed or consultants being hired to consider the league’s options.

Converging these interests into a common agenda would appear to be an insurmountable challenge.

Who would make up a Big East committee on expansion issues? The presidents of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, even Connecticut, are salivating about being included in a Big Ten expansion. How could any discussion involving them be productive?

Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida aren’t in any position to have much of an impact on discussions. The only leverage they have is the investment they’re making in their athletic facilities. U of L is among the most profitable basketball programs in the nation. Cincinnati has a great following when its teams are winning. South Florida, in Tampa, is in the 14th largest media market.

None of which is apparently a big deal when it comes to Big Ten versus non-Big Ten considerations.

Converging these interests into a common agenda would appear to be an insurmountable challenge. The Big East is locked into a position of having to respond to whatever the Big Ten decides what it’s going to do — and that won’t be known until summer.

Don’t expect the Big East college presidents to have serious discussions before then.