The landscape of college athletics is changing before our eyes. A ridiculous money grab is on in an era where insecurity runs high and enough is never enough. However, this is the reality and Providence College will certainly be impacted, so we cannot shy away from it.
By all accounts the latest has Syracuse and Pittsburgh foregoing their roots and identities, following in the footsteps of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College and bolting to the Atlantic Coast Conference in pursuit of a Tobacco Road bounty.
Does not appear there is any turning back now but it is curious as to what Syracuse and Pittsburgh expect to get out of this. Realistically how much better off are Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College since joining the ACC in 2004 (Miami & VT) and 2005 (BC)? And one could have made a much better fit argument between Miami/Tech and the ACC (BC does not really fit with anyone right? Just ask them.) at the time than one can for Syracuse and Pittsburgh presently.
Just one guy’s opinion but Jim Boeheim and Jamie Dixon cannot be thrilled either.
So what happens now? The answer is….who the heck knows!
Anxious times indeed, but odds are that PC basketball will continue to compete in a high profile league. There exist a couple of seemingly viable scenarios so let’s take a look.
SCENARIO 1: Remaining Big East football Schools Vow to Keep the Conference Intact, Look to Replace Syracuse and Pittsburgh and Perhaps Expand Further
Things are fragile to say the least with the football schools looking to protect their ‘interests’ (translation, revenue streams).
Including TCU, the Big East has seven remaining football members. Ideally they would look to get to ten. If I were John Marinatto I would be catching the first flight to South Bend in an attempt to convince Notre Dame to come to their senses and join the Big East as a full member. Yes, there are financials to work out and pride to swallow but where there’s a will there’s a way. Further if you put Notre Dame on the truth-o-meter, they know it’s a win, win.
Notre Dame’s brand is still strong. Stronger in fact than its actual product right now, and therein lies the rub. How long Notre Dame can sustain itself as a lone cowboy (or lone leprechaun?) is squarely in question. Notre Dame’s current contract with NBC runs through the 2015 season and do not look for NBC to extend further unless and until Notre Dame can re-establish some on field prominence. As Business Week recently pointed out, despite saying all the right things publicly, in reality NBC’s goodwill is dwindling. (http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/notre-dame-the-fleecing-irish-09082011.html)
From Notre Dame’s perspective, this conference chaos represents a great opportunity to save face while hedging their financial bets. Rather than a move to Big East football looking like admission of defeat, a move now can be positioned as Notre Dame’s saving the conference while seemingly leaving some of that NBC money on the table. In other words it can be positioned as a move that is more about loyalty and the integrity of the sport than about money…. even if ultimately it really is about money underneath it all.
Regardless of what happens with Notre Dame the ‘Save the Big East’ scenario would likely involve a breakup of the Big 12. Adam Zagoria reported today on ZagsBlog.com that the Big East has contacted every Big 12 school except Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Texas and Texas Tech would clearly represent the most coveted, but more likely here we would see next tier (football) schools such as Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State moving over to the Big East.
From a football standpoint is there a downside to replacing Syracuse and Pittsburgh with Missouri, Kansas and Kansas State? NOPE. Let’s face it, Syracuse is a horrible football program and Pittsburgh is mediocre at best. Adding the Big 12 programs would be an upgrade. Further, from a football TV/media standpoint the Big East would still have the New York market with Rutgers as well as the Western Pennsylvania, Mid-Atlantic area with Pittsburgh neighbor West Virginia.
Taking logistics out of the equation, because we have to nowadays as geography can no longer matter, this approach certainly works from a basketball standpoint as well. Kansas is Kansas while Missouri and Kansas State conservatively represent very solid national programs.
Other less attractive possibilities under this heading involve adding schools like Temple and Central Florida as well as revisiting the previously rejected idea of moving Villanova up to the FBS.
With any of these combinations, Providence and its basketball brethren remain members of the Big East in good standing, for at least the foreseeable future, with the added task of, if the Big 12 teams come in, figuring out what to do with all of those additional frequent flyer miles.
SCENARIO 2: Big East Football and Basketball Members Split
This could occur in a couple of different varieties on the football side. The football members could remain united and look to expand similar to above, or they could simply all become free agents and hope to become assets of one of the surviving super conferences.
That would leave the eight ‘basketball only’ members – Providence, Georgetown, St. John’s, DePaul, Marquette, Seton Hall, Villanova and Notre Dame – to form their own conference, and look to include prominent basketball schools like Xavier, Butler, Dayton and Tulsa to round out a ten or twelve team league. The football/basketball split writing has been on the wall for awhile now and, in this writer’s opinion, it is extremely intriguing. Qualify that by saying there is nothing like Big East basketball but the reality is the actions of Pittsburgh and Syracuse have rendered Big East basketball as we know it history.
Provided something completely catastrophic, like the NCAA tournament blowing up, does not occur, this basketball league can be sold and would be a factor nationally. It would have no problem sustaining interest and attracting TV money which means the coaches, players and tournament appearances will all still be there. Further, while there exists nothing very encouraging about the whole super conference thing, it certainly would make for some great theater whenever football money and non football money clash in basketball.
As for Providence? It’s all good. Not only do they survive in this environment, they quite possibly thrive. Certainly there is a value attributable to the caché of a football/basketball Big East but the basketball only schools do not directly benefit from football money, so perhaps the financial hit is not drastic. Further, the possibility of long term success could be further buoyed if the momentum created by the arrival of Ed Cooley continues according to plan and translates to success on the court.
Of course, the sad reality here is that schools outside of the super conferences, or super conferences plus one major basketball league, would likely be on the outside looking in.