If coaches rule college basketball, the Big East kingdom has been rendered virtually leaderless in the past year or so. First West Virginia’s Bob Huggins left for the Big 12. Then the announcement that Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon would leave for the ACC. The recent defection of Notre Dame’s Mike Brey to the ACC and the retirement of Connecticut’s Jim Calhoun is most likely a death blow.
Those five coaches have a combined record of 3049-1194 for a .719 winning percentage. They’ve won 20 of the 33 Big East regular season titles and 14 Big East tournaments. They’ve made nine Final Four appearances and won four NCAA Championships. Boeheim’s 890 wins put him behind only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski on the active list. Now that Calhoun has retired, Huggins is third on the list with 710 wins.
Sure the Big East still has Louisville’s Rick Pitino, but the Cardinals would leave the conference in a heartbeat if the ACC, SEC, Big-12, Big-10 or Pac-12 would take them.
The Big East was started as a northeast basketball conference in 1979. It was a decent football conference until 2004 when Miami and Virginia Tech left for the ACC. Boston College following them the next year started the complete disregard for geography in the world of college sports.
The Big East responded by significantly upgrading its already impressive basketball league by bringing in Cincinnati, Louisville, DePaul and Marquette shortly after. Since then it’s been the preeminent conference in the sport.
Now what becomes of the Big East?
The next move will apparently be a much needed name change. The league abandoned its northeast roots a few years back by bringing in the schools in the Midwest and the University of South Florida. Recently they’ve grown to 16 different states by adding Texas—Houston and SMU--, Tennessee—Memphis--, Idaho—Boise State—and California—San Diego State.
There are 20 Big East members now with 10 participating in all sports, seven in all but football and three in only football.
How about the Big Confused?
It’s inevitable that there will be more conference realignment. The critical issue is a seat at the college football playoff table. Notre Dame currently has a seat at that table but hedged their bet by joining the ACC for all sports but football, while committing to play five games each year against ACC teams.
While the Irish are guaranteed consideration for the playoff and the revenue from their own NBC contract, there is no reason for them to join a conference for football. But those two things could easily be taken away. We’re still not sure how the selection for this playoff will go and it’s not certain that NBC will renew the contract in 2015. If those go away, Notre Dame simply joins the ACC for football.
Can the Big East keep their seat at the adult table? I don’t see how. Where’s the top football program? They’re counting on Boise State being enough to keep them relevant on the national scene? Not so much. Look at the rest of the conference:
South Florida Central Florida
Navy San Diego State
Quoting my grandfather, “Oye Vey”.
Connecticut would love to join the ACC. Louisville would love to join any of the other Big Boy leagues. I don’t know if the other schools have enough cache to stay relevant.
The Big East will probably end up where they started. As a northeast basketball conference. But with Georgetown, St. John’s and Villanova leading the way, it won’t approach the status that it held.
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