A real shame what’s happening to the Big East Conference.
Mike Aresco, the new commissioner, has inherited an impossible situation.
The schools with football programs should have walked away from the conference years ago, adding to their ranks schools with similar ambitions. Now they’re faced with the possibility that that basketball schools will join another conference, leaving the football schools to deal with a configuration which, at best, is chaotic.
The seven Catholic universities — Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence, St. John’s and DePaul — met with Aresco Sunday to discuss their limited options. They’re seriously considering hooking up with the Atlantic Coast Conference. Sticking with around the Big East, in its present form, is the other alternative.
Seemingly no one outside the league wanted the conference to remain viable. Certainly not ESPN, which sicked its analysts on the Big East about five years ago, downplaying Big East football at every turn. Not the Atlantic Coast Conference, which began plucking football schools eight years ago. The Big Ten and the Big 12 were creating ripples with their raids, each of them having a directly or indirectly impacting the Big East.
One of the things keeping the league together may be all the exit fees coming the football schools leaving the league, $21 million from West Virginia and $10 million each from Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Notre Dame. Then there are the NCAA basketball tournament shares, due to the success of the league in recent years, and the league’s contract with Madison Square Garden.
If the seven basketball-focused schools leave to join another conference, they may forfeit their claims to all that money. That would leave UConn, Cincinnati, Central Florida, Houston, SMU, Tulane, Boise State and San Diego State, Temple, Tulane, South Florida, Memphis and East Carolina, but with UConn, Cincinnati and USF still looking for quick exits.
Frankly, we don’t see the schools coming up with a strategic plan that everyone can agree upon, especially with the TV rights in limbo and the conference money still in play. The Big East is going to be around for a few years, with all its flaws, shortcomings and disappointed members.