The good news is that the Big East isn't dead. The bad news is that it's on life support.
Ever since we rang in 2010, fans of the Big East schools have been waiting with bated breath to see just exactly what move the Big Ten would make. Would it be Missouri? Rutgers? Syracuse? Pitt? Notre Dame? The rumors flew fast and furiously.
As wild as those rumors were all winter, nobody could have predicted the bold moves of Colorado, Nebraska and the Pac-10. We are now heading towards the most radical realignment in the history of college athletics.
I'm not going to pretend to know the intricacies of exploiting student athletes—err... I mean—the finances and politics of college athletics. Nor am I going to pretend I know what the hell is going to happen.
I am writing from a fan's perspective, simply going off the assumption that we are heading towards four super conferences of 16 teams and the death of the Big East and Big 12.
Right now there are 66 schools (including Notre Dame) in BCS conferences. If we end up with four 16 team power conferences that total drops to 64, add a few mid-majors stepping up and you're looking at at worst three or four schools losing their auto-bid potential.
Pitt wont be one of those schools. Despite poor attendance, we are too strong athletically and academically to be left out. (If my school was coached by a former Pitt defensive coordinator or rhymed with "taylor" I would be very worried right now).
That means Pitt is either Big Ten or ACC bound.
As far as I can see the Big Ten only offers two advantages.
1) A renewed rivalry with Penn State.
2) More money.
Now obviously, number two on that list will make Mark Nordenberg's decision for him should the Big Ten offer Pitt an invite. But other than the hilarity of beating the Lions in basketball by 20 in Bryce Jordan, then by 30 at the Pete, I can't see life in the Big Ten being too much fun for Pitt fans.
Lets face it Pitt. The Panther's lack the fire power to compete with Ohio State and Michigan (when Rich Rod's espionage mission is over) in football. Sure there will be the odd year where the Panthers make a run, but color me unexcited for the late season battles with Purdue for the right to go to the Alamo Bowl.
Now lets say that Pitt gets left out of the Big Ten cash grab and gets scooped up by the ACC.
1) Pitt is now a part of the greatest hoops conference of all time. Six of the eight Big East football schools have great basketball programs (I'm giving Cincinnati the benefit of the doubt).
If the ACC added Pitt, Louisville, WVU, and UConn to Duke, UNC, Wake, and Maryland we would be putting everything the Big East accomplished on the hardwood this decade to shame.
2) Pitt is an East coast school. As Pitt has grown academically, the reach of the university's young alumni base has extended Eastward. Pitt's presence in New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC is stronger than ever.
As Pitt continues to grow academically, the alumni base will become more affluent. As Pitt continues to win, the alumni base will begin to travel, but they won't travel to Michigan or Wisconsin. They will however, make trips to Boston and DC.
3) Pitt will be able to compete in the ACC football arms race. As powerful as Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Miami are, they are not as imposing as the powers of the Big Ten. I would argue that the ACC has been as bad as—or worse than—the Big East over the past five years. Pitt should be able to compete for titles with far more frequency in a 16 team ACC as opposed to a 16 team Big Ten.
4) Pitt will play teams that appeal to their fans. Obviously playing Penn State would trump anything the ACC could offer Pitt fans but the ACC has a deeper pool of interesting schools. Pitt fans used to circle Virginia Tech and Miami on their calendars. Add basketball games on Tobacco Road and I think you'll find a lot more circles on the Pitt sports calendar in the ACC.
I've been on record saying I'd like to see the Big East saved. As someone who has spent his 25 years on Earth growing up around Big East hoops, I stand by that sentiment.
But if Pitt has to leave, I would much rather see them go East as opposed to West. Of course money makes this decision—not fan appeal—and I'll end up supporting my Panthers no matter what. But let the record show I think Pitt would be a much better fit in the ACC as opposed to the Big Ten...
And I don't think I'm alone.
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