Wednesday, March 13, 2013
The Rise of the New Big East
The Big East was founded to be a basketball-centric conference.
Then came money. TV contracts. More money. Realignment. More TV contracts. More money.
Like that, the Big East tried to take a wild football detour. Like that, the conference died.
Rising from the ashes though are the seven Catholic schools, still basketball-centric. For once, realignment was sincerely proper, just and good. The Big East will go back to its roots. And it will be a strong basketball conference. Very strong.
The "Catholic Seven," DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, and Villanova, watched as the conference they helped found run like a chicken with its head cut off. Football had spoken, loud and clear, and the Big East was caught off guard. As they watched West Virginia flee to the Big 12, Syracuse and Pitt to the ACC and then Rutgers ... Rutgers to the Big Ten, the conference scrambled to come up with substitutes. And in droves.
Memphis. Houston. SMU. Boise State. San Diego State. Tulane. And then, for football only, Navy and East Carolina. As if the day would ever come that a conference built on hoops would choose schools only for football. Times dramatically changed.
The geography says it all: it was a conference who had let football completely erase its very identity. And, when the new "America 12," or whatever they call it, meet for the first time, their very identity will be a tough mission to discover. So much so that Boise State and San Diego State had little to no trouble going back to their rightful spots in the Mountain West.
What the Catholic Seven did was bold. They demanded a return to their founding priniciples. They got it. And, while the benefits of football realignment remain a toss-up, the new Big East will be nothing but great for college basketball.
When these schools are strong, basketball is better for it. Georgetown and Villanova have championship tradition and can again lure basketball prospects to come to a school and play in a conference where their sport is top dog. A good St. John's team gets New York City more involved in college hoops. A solid Marquette team and a return to prominence for DePaul could make for a great Midwest hoops rivalry. And, if Butler and Xavier join in, along with possibly Creighton, the league could eventually rival the ACC or Big Ten in top-to-bottom strength. Big city schools, recruiting home-grown talent, playing in the one basketball-centered conference. The potential is huge.
Notre Dame made it official in joining the ACC? Sure that was a good move, Irish? Great hoops conference, but the new Big East could fit you like a glove.
While realignment killed some rivalries and made dramatic changes to the geographic map, seven Catholic schools got it right. Instead of creating new leagues and identities, they went back to their roots. They'll be better off for it, as will college basketball.
Congrats to the new Big East. My only advice is to grow to 10 schools, 12 at the absolute most, and stop. Don't go to 16, or 20. Stick to the ideals of what the predecessor was supposed to be about and you'll do just fine.