Reporting Matt Ryan
During the conference realignment that has occurred over the last few years, it seemed like the Big East was slowly disappearing as a
major conference. Over the last 18 months, 16 of its member schools have either left or announced their departure for another conference. It began with Syracuse and Pittsburgh accepting invites to the ACC, followed by West Virginia and TCU (a school that never officially joined the conference) going to the Big 12, and now the Catholic 7 are starting a new league with the same name.
The Big East didn’t go the way of the Southwestern Conference as many expected, instead it has now been reborn as a non-football conference, as it was during its original inception in 1979. While established members such as Syracuse and UConn will no longer be playing their games in the conference, the “new” Big East will still be a hoops power.
1. Dominant Programs - Even with the departure of so many great basketball schools, the old Big East still had a number of successful teams that would have kept the conference relevant. Georgetown, Marquette, and Villanova are consistently ranked in the top-25 and have all been to a Final Four within the last 10 years. Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, and DePaul have not been the most dominant teams as of lately, but all four have had their moments in March at one time or another. Playing in a new league without as many weekly matchups with Final Four-caliber teams, should help these programs become more competitive.
2. Mid-Majors Beware - NCAA realignment has now trickled down from the dominant football conferences to the mid-majors in basketball. Atlantic 10 members; Butler and Xavier are expected to join the Catholic 7 in their new league, along with their current conference members Saint Louis, Dayton, and Creighton from the Missouri Valley Conference. This could set off another around round of expansion with the Atlantic 10 and MVC looking for replacements.
The WCC wont have much to worry about unless the Big East invites Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s to make a trans-continental conference. That didn’t work out so well last time when Boise State and San Diego State were invited as football members.
3. No BCS, No Problem – Unlike the “old” Big East, the “new” Big East wont have to worry about other conferences such as the Big Ten or ACC coming after its constituents. None of its members sponsor an FBS football program, which is the biggest reason why all these conference changes have occurred recently.
4. Madison Square Garden – One of the biggest accomplishments for the new league, before it even started, was being able to keep the World’s Most Famous Arena as the venue for its conference tournament. Although the prestige may not rival what the Big East Tournament has been, it should still be one of the most see events of March Madness.
5. $$$ – The new conference will be one of the programming centerpieces for the national Fox Sports-networks that will be launching later this year. Big East-basketball programs currently make $1.6 million a season with ESPN, that figure will nearly double to $3 million a season with Fox.