It appears that the Catholic 7 have all but wrapped up a potential exodus from the current Big East situation as it is, taking with them the Big East name and retaining the rights to the use of Madison Square Garden for an end-of-season tournament.
That leaves the current Big East schools in an unknown situation, forced to change names and re-categorize a conference that has been in flux for the last few seasons.
With the events of the last few days fresh in our minds, one thing is painfully clear for the remaining "football-first" members of the conference—a drop-off.
As reported by ESPN's Brett McMurphy, the holdovers from that move now appear likely to adopt "America 12 Conference" as the namesake to cover the remnants of the "football" schools that remain from the conference split and the current influx of Southern applicants (SMU, Tulane, Houston, Memphis).
The Big East has already filed for domain names, including America12.org (via McMurphy's report). With the basketball schools gaining access to the more marketable name, the continued use of MSG and a television deal with Fox Sports that will earn each school around $3 million, "America 12" is the latest attempt to revive a conference that has been on the verge of death for the past few seasons.
For starters, the name change hasn't convinced many people that current Big East officials know what they are doing going forward. It might be of little effect on the performances on the field, but "America 12 Conference" doesn't have many excited, at least right off the bat.
ESPN's Darren Rovell noted that a self-conducted Twitter poll (of 400 of his followers) yielded a strikingly negative return:
POLL RESULTS (400 VOTES): 93% say they don't like the name The America 12 Conference.— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) March 7, 2013
Andy Glockner of SI.com certainly wasn't impressed, noting that each time he watched the conference he would be reminded of his local movie theater:
"Now playing at the America 12: Mediocre Football at 1:30 and Two Schools Dying To Get Out at 4:15"— Andy Glockner (@AndyGlockner) March 7, 2013
The America 12 conference will continue to compete in the Bowl Championship Subdivision. Since the conference will be geared toward football first (the reason that the Catholic 7 are headed elsewhere), it appears it will continue to compete in the highest order of college football.
If you've yet to see the 10 teams that will likely make up America 12 in 2013-14, here's a complete list of where the conference lies:
|America 12 Conference (2013-14 Team List)|
|South Florida||East Carolina|
|Notre Dame *|
*Notre Dame reportedly trying to gain access to the ACC (in all sports except football), and would leave the America 12 if that deal came together (via ESPN and McMurphy).
As far as the name goes, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports is also at a loss for words as to why the conference would pick a number when it's been widely reported that it will try to add more teams (Tulsa, Navy, among others) later on in the process:
Why tie yourself to "America 12" when you know you're gonna be a 10-team or 14-team league at some point? Pick a name without a number.— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) March 7, 2013
Looking at the current field, it's no surprise that a name change hasn't changed popular opinion on the Big East.
If you look at those 10 teams that appear locked in for the 13-14 season (excluding Notre Dame), only three finished with at least eight wins, and the total record for the incoming conference from the 2012 season is 58-66 (Big East and Conference-USA were the two conferences in which these teams played).
Many were upset that the Big East was even allowed to be in the BCS picture this year, although Louisville's dismantling of Florida in the Orange Bowl made some rethink that theory.
That being said, the Big East—er, America 12—is still headed for a big drop-off next season. The current university roster doesn't lend any indicators that it could be a major competitor with any of the major five partners (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 12 and SEC), yet has a new TV deal with ESPN and a set of officials that have desperately tried to save the dying brand.
If the drop-off in football wasn't enough, think of how the basketball teams will be affected. The Catholic 7 make up some of the most storied collegiate basketball programs of all time. Louisville and Syracuse are bolting for a new conference (the ACC), and Rutgers is going to the Big Ten.
It leaves a hodgepodge of schools either facing NCAA sanctions (UConn), recovering from the latest lapse in recruiting (Memphis) or on the outside looking in for the past few decades (SMU).
However, it's worth noting that America 12 is at least putting up a fight.
Conference officials have had to deal with all of the above departures, the move of West Virginia to the Big 12 and all of the bumps and bruises in between, yet have 10 committed parties to participate in athletics next season.
Conference realignment has shocked the college world over the past 24 months, and it seems you have to add a new team every week to keep up with what other conferences are doing to add new schools and create national conglomerates.
Of the generally accepted "top-six" conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, Pac 12), where does the America 12 conference rank?
The TV deal with ESPN also rivals some of the other big conferences in college sports, and UConn and Cincinnati will continue to put out good teams each year—no matter the situation.
It can't be all bad.
However, the conference—no matter the name or location—is headed for a drop-off in the next few seasons. It will take a few years for recruiting to catch up to the label, fans to catch on to this reported name and for the schools to work out all the kinks in what will likely end up being the most-traveled conference in college sports (due to the locations of current members).
It's a new era in college sports, but it seems that the conference formerly known as the Big East will have to get back to its roots.
Like it or not, America 12 will reportedly soon be the new name, and if you are a fan of one of its members, it looks like your support will be tested over the next few seasons.