Conference Realignment and the Big East

Tell me if you’ve heard this before: a bunch of college athletic programs chasing the bag and the supposed greener pastures of major college football while simultaneously ignoring the negatives that surround that move for the rest of their athletic programs.

It’s conference realignment season once again. This time the PAC-12 is the conference that is feeling its wrath. The Conference of Champions is no more, and that is a bummer.

Conference realignment is tearing apart traditional rivalries, ruining tradition and making athletes travel all across the country while trying to earn a degree. Nothing says collegiate sports like asking a Rutgers basketball team to travel across country on a Wednesday against USC in conference and then turn that flight around so the jet lagged student athletes can attend classes on Thursday.

In December, it will be the 11th anniversary of when the Catholic Seven decided it would band together and leave the Big East with its name and brand intact. For a conference that looked dead in the water, it has miraculously thrived in this new environment. The Big East has been able to claim 3 National Championships since the football schools left. Most telling is that the schools that did leave seem to have had little to no football success. The grass isn’t always greener, but money talks. This upcoming basketball season has the potential to be the most competitive the league has been in this new iteration.

As a fan of the conference I’m grateful, the Big East appears to be unharmed, but it does bear the question.

What does the Big East do next?

The first time around the conference was able to keep its brand and most rivalries, that fueled its recent success. After dwelling in the AAC for 7 years, UConn returned to the league. It gave the conference a jolt to its portfolio and resurrected the Huskies men’s basketball program. UConn wants to leave again, but no power conference wants to take on that dumpster fire of a football program.

Regardless if the Huskies get an invitation to the ACC or B12, I think the league needs to have a proactive course of action: they need to look at expanding their league. While many may not want to hear that, the conference may not have a choice.

In my opinion, the Big East is going to have to suck it up and look West. The league needs to find other college programs that are mainly centered around hoops. A conference of basketball centric colleges/universities has a place in today’s NCAA. If I were Val Ackerman I’d look to expand to 16 teams. The five schools I’d add? Gonzaga, San Francisco, St Mary’s, UNLV, and Dayton. That way you can split it into three divisions that would lessen the travel miles.

Unfortunately this kind of expansion would likely mean the Big East name could be retired and it’s glory just a memory. It’s certainly not ideal but the league needs to do what is in its best interest to survive and that might be ditching part of the fabric that made this revival possible.

BOC’s Take

I do agree with the Crier that expansion is likely necessary. As an avid college football fan, I am thrilled with what the B12 is doing because it essentially prevents the B10 and SEC swallowing the rest of college football whole and making college football a mirror image of the NFL with two super divisions. I honestly think the B12 has saved this version of college football and hopefully delayed the consolidation.

The ACC of recent turned down offers to add Stanford and Cal. The ACC, from my vantage point, is on life support. We all know Florida State is trying to leave. Miami and Clemson are probably next. The ACC should be taking a page out of the B12 handbook and proactively adding teams. While I think UConn leaving would hurt their basketball program, adding UConn, Coastal Carolina, and potentially some of the tier 2 Florida schools could solidify the ACC. I’d also willingly accept some of the “Pac 4” schools for football only.

It’s wild to me that Stanford has been left at the altar when they are routinely viewed as the best athletic program in the entire country. They are the gold star for Athletic programs and have no home. That is a telling indictment of just how backwards things have gotten in college sports. Crazy.

What should the Big East do? Add Notre Dame for basketball and make them Big East for everything outside football. ND is independent for football, but has a peculiar allegiance with the ACC for everything else. They likely see the writing on the wall with the ACC (they were the ones pushing the ACC to add Stanford and Cal) and may want to rejoin the Big East for all sports outside of football. That move alone raises the profile of the Big East as a whole. Ackerman should make that call. The Big East Conference has top conferences for a lot of the sports ND excels at: soccer and lacrosse, to name a few. Landing ND is a shot across the bow to the rest of college sports that the Big East is here to stay.

Other secondary moves of equal importance could be adding schools that prioritize basketball: Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, St. Louis, Dayton, the Philly schools, etc. Folks will scoff at adding West Coast schools, but the Big East could easily set up an East and West coast division that are 7 teams each.

My main point in all of this is to be selectively proactive. The Big East is in a very healthy place, but that can change in a nanosecond. It’s up to the leadership of the Big East to be the aggressor here.

8 thoughts on “Conference Realignment and the Big East”

  1. What’s the big deal? Just because UCONN wants to leave. Let them leave. Somehow the Big East survived before they came in.

  2. Add 5 – move back to a 16-team configuration. Yes. But not all western teams…and zero midmajors!

    Rescue Stanford & Berkeley now. They can park football in Albuquerque for all I Care.

    The ACC implodes soon – FSU, Clemson, Miami want to move – while it is still possible. Add Duke, ND, & Syracuse once the implosion dust settles in 2024.

  3. An objective of additions to BE is to raise the academic profile. UNLV isn’t a terrific role model for academic excellence.

    For sure, it’s difficult to ID institutions with strong academics, better than….mid-major moving towards top tier. This means looking directly west. Not many private institutions fall in this category. Public institutions may potentially spend a gazillion $$$ to ride the BE wave…vs organic growth.

    If BYU was willing to go independent for FB, they would be an excellent BE candidate. Denver is another good candidate. However, they will stick with men’s ice hockey ( why haven’t they added women’s hockey to match the men’s competitive level?) for winter , and men’s/ women’s lax for spring…as their premier intercollegiate sports programs.

    For a long shot….consider Seattle U ….for market penetration purposes. OK…mediocre academics .and in competition with U-Dub. Question is does Seattle have the marketing staff and experience to move into the Big Time? U-Dub may be too formidable for BigTime marketing competition.

  4. I disagree with the general premise that the Big East “needs” to expand. If the new media deal is a complete disaster than of course I’ll be proven wrong, but I really don’t think this is something the league has to do. All those additions are extremely unappealing to me. If you can’t make a great add, don’t compromise to make a bad add because you’re fearful or feeling pressure to do so. The idea that the league is gonna fall off the face of the earth if they don’t add UNLV, USF, SMC, or GU is baseless. The league will be fine and we don’t need to be adding teams willy nilly

    1. Fair points but I do think you add hoops value even if these teams aren’t East- USF (Bill Russell, media market), Gonzaga (we know their pedigree), SMC (no real market but good program), UNLV (great program history just down lately), Dayton is a CBB town

  5. Notre Dame, Dayton, Davidson, St Louis and maybe URI or UMass. Those are solid and stay mostly east coast. Notre Dame would be a GameChanger.

  6. The only team I’d really like to add if they became available is Boston College. Full disclosure I’m a Marquette alum, but because of Al McGuire being a New Yorker many of us love the Big East because it gives us the great connection into the Northeast and our alums out there are among the most successful. Keep it as Northeastern media market as possible and Boston is so enticing I know the conference has even looked at Boston University as a lesser program, but if we could get BC and stick at 12 I’d be happy.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: