With a new football season only four months away, the Big East Conference is back to discussing conference expansion and TV football packages. Probably more happening behind the scenes than we know, but the impression is that it took the annual meeting of the football coaches for the issues to surface again.

Perhaps the conference again got caught up in the excitement of another basketball season, in which a Big East member was crowned national champion. Football still simmering on the back burner until two months later. The situation reminds one of the inordinate attention given to basketball around these parts, as if college football were an also-ran.

Stems back to the league’s origins as a basketball conference,presided over by basketball-minded Dave Gavitt as the first commissioner from 1979 to 1990. Successful almost from the beginning, with three teams — Georgetown, St. John’s and Villanova — making it to the Final Four in 1985.  Four teams have won six national championships.

Today, the Big East is the premier basketball conference in the land. Football, on the other hand, suffers from an obvious lack of respect.

Not that there isn’t a significant football heritage. Pittsburgh was a perennial power for years, national champion in 1916, 1918, 1937 and 1976. Syracuse won a national title in 1959. Louisville, West Virginia, South Florida and Cincinnati have been in and out of the top 10 in the last decade, West Virginia winning multiple BCS bowls, U of L another.

But the Big East has never been able to capitalize on the success. This inability may be due to a lack of expertise or vision on the part of league officials, complicated by a cynical  sports media more comfortable with stereotypes and clubby atmosphere of the old guard. But the greatest impediment is that the non-football schools have an inherent conflict of interest, tunnel vision if you will, only invested in their basketball programs at the expense of other schools.

The inescapable conclusion is that while the Big East may have achieved its original objective, of fielding a great basketball conference, it is incapable in its present form of serving the best interests of all the members. The football members will fare much better as a separate entity no matter how the expansion discussions and TV packages are resolved.

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By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

7 thoughts on “Conflict of interest hinders Big East Conference expansion”
  1. The Big East needs to hire someone with clout to get this job done, no matter where they have to get this person. Too much pussyfooting around for far too long.

  2. The writer makes a good point. It is time for the Big East to divide into two conferences: one conference for all sports and one conference for schools that do not wish to play football.

    The Big East “expansion” process has become a silly joke.

  3. Big East football is a dysfunctional group of schools. Each member school would bolt the Big East Football conference in a nano second if the opportunity arose.

    Recall in 2003 when Syracuse University was ready to join the ACC only to get passed over for fellow Big East member.

    Don’t kid yourself; UCF, UHouston, ECU nor Memphis will give Big East football TV star power.

    The writer of the above article is naive if he believes that the Big East football school have not investigated the consequences of divorcing the Big East basketball only schools and merging with a number of the C- USA schools.

    The reality is that the partial merger with C- USA members UCF, UHouston and others will destroy the best men’s basketball conference and result in a mediocre football conference.

    With all respect to the University of Louisville and other Big East football schools — If Louisville believe that a better situation serves it’s needs then Louisville and the other football schools should quit the Big East and merge with the powerful and prestigious C- USA schools.

  4. The Big East has provided us BCS status, but Louisville may need to start looking at finding a new all-sport conference. The Big East is very unstable and divided. Let us hope the football schools split and tell Notre Dame all in or out. I feel the current Big East days are numbered!

  5. If you want added TV value and a boost in football credibility, of the realistically available condidates only BYU can offer both.

    The Big East needs to have some TV guys crunch some probably contract value numbers for a 10/18-member league with BYU included. They then need to take those numbers to Provo and get BYU on board as soon as possible. They then need to get someone with knowledge of and commitment to football to negotiate with the TV folks for a new contract. I nominate Oliver Luck. John Marinatto or any other Providence stooge won’t get it done.

  6. The Big East should become the first super league. It already is in hoops.

    Why not think bigger.

    Add BYU, Air Force, Houston and UCF.

    That is two national tv household grabbers plus Houston and Orlando.

    BYU and AIR Force make the most sense. National following. Gives BYU and TCU better travel options.

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