Conference realignment can be confusing at the best of times, Al Dannity looks at what remains of the Big East and explains what the future of conference will probably look like.
Who’s still there? Not many. With Rutgers, Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse all leaving, the conference is going to be without all of its founding* College Football members going forward. That leaves UConn and Cincinnati as flag-bearers going forward. South Florida suddenly jumps up to third strongest program in the conference, with 2012 returnee Temple the only other standard-bearer. The Huskies and Bearcats have made massive strides with their athletic departments but look set to miss out when the current round of musical chairs ends. Of the four teams that shared the Big East title in 2012, three will be gone by the start of 2014.
*While Temple was there at the start, the Owls were not continuous members.
Who’s coming? Not as many schools as were initially expected. Boise State, who initially thought they joining a much stronger conference, will be staying in the Mountain West. That move frees up San Diego State to cancel its plans to join, likely seeing them remain in the Mountain West too. That leaves UCF, Houston, SMU, Tulane, Memphis, and East Carolina as prospective new arrivals. For those doing the math, that would give the Big East a total of 10 members entering the 2014 season. Navy is due to join in 2015 but, like Boise State, expected to be joining a stronger conference. The Midshipmen may see independence as a more lucrative option.
What about Basketball? Normally conference realignment is ruled by Football but the Big East has been gutted to such an extent that seven Basketball schools look set to split off. DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St John’s, and Villanova look ready to be aggressors and set up their own Basketball conference. With Xavier, Butler, and Gonzaga being mentioned amongst possible new members, a national major conference could be on the horizon. Should the split go through, and at this point there’s no reason for it not to, the ripples could affect Football further. Memphis would have to seriously consider its move, having been desperate to join a stronger conference in both sports. Throw in UConn and Cincinnati continuing their quests to find a better home, and you have a conference on the verge of extinction.
While the crisis as a whole was not within the Big East’s control, there have been some big missteps in recent times that have accelerated the conference’s decline. In short, the suits running the show over-valued their Football TV rights. They went all-in hoping to get ACC-level money. As a result, the conference is now being targeted by the Mountain West. That’s an epic turn of events.