Why the Big East Will Eventually Implode

Why the Big East Will Eventually Implode

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Big East’s survival is still in doubt.

This time next year, the Big East Conference may have as many as 19 teams playing basketball. That’s up from the 16 schools that are now part of the Big East for all sports except for football. Credit the league’s most recent expansion drive that added five new schools, three for all-sports except for football, to the bloated conference.

National Conference

Imagine the work that schedule makers will have trying to arrange games when teams from as far as way as Texas play schools in Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. Houston, SMU and Central Florida are the newest all-sports schools heading to the Big East and will replace Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia that will be leaving the conference by the following year.

What’s most curious is that for football, the Big East will expand to 13 teams for one year as Boise State and San Diego State join the conference. If things stay as they are right now, the league will shrink to 10 teams by 2014. However, there is a very good chance the Big East will implode before then, leaving each of the football-playing schools leaving for greener pastures. The Big East’s implosion is coming and it could get ugly depending on the moves made by one or more other major conferences.

Possible Scenario

The Big East Conference is in desperate shape and that desperation will only worsen the next time a school decides to exit the conference. Here is one possible scenario that could quickly signal the conference’s end:

Louisville Leaves — It is no secret that Louisville wants to join the Big 12 Conference where the University of West Virginia is heading. Missouri’s move to the SEC had the Big 12 going after the Mountaineers, but the league also took a look at Louisville. The Cardinals may still get invited and might possibly bring Cincinnati with them, making the Big 12 once again a true 12-team conference.

UConn, Rutgers Follow — Whether Cincinnati follows Louisville or not, the steps to get two other Big East programs to leave will hasten. UConn and Rutgers have made it clear that each school wants out. They’ve signed on to the expanded Big East simply to buy some time. UConn would love to go to the ACC while Rutgers is most interested in the Big Ten. If the ACC is interested in going from 14 teams to 16 teams, they’ll make a pitch for both schools. Expect both schools to accept an invitation even if RU’s heart is looking to the midwest and specifically to the Big Ten. Getting out of the Big East is a priority for both schools.

Shambles or a New Big East — With Louisville, Cincinnati, UConn and Rutgers leaving, the Big East conference as we know it will cease to exist. Or might it live on? The latter scenario is possible although count Boise State and San Diego State out of the equation, The Big East could survive by becoming the new “USA” conference by snapping up additional Conference USA schools such as East Carolina and Memphis. Add in Temple and encourage UMass to join and you’ll have a “renewed” conference, that will be “big” and “east” in name only. By the way, Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference may merge to live another day. In a new form, of course.

Some people have wanted the NCAA to intervene in the conference realignment mess, but they overestimate the power of this not-so-august body. College presidents control collegiate sports, therefore as long as there is money to be made by conference championships, bowl games and basketball leagues, nothing will change except the strength of the conferences themselves.

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