Big East Psychology 101 and Expansion: How the Small Control the Large

Dave DeBlasioCorrespondent INovember 9, 2010

PITTSBURGH - SEPTEMBER 23:  Dan Mason #40 of the Pittsburgh Panthers gestures to the fans after leaving the game on a stretcher during the game against the Miami Hurricanes on September 23, 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Update: TCU is not willing to accept a football only offer. Great news for those fans who want a more secure Big East Conference.

The news rush from finding out about the Big East presidents and athletic directors meeting in Philadelphia last Tuesday has faded. The general consensus among bloggers such as, from Syracuse and Chas Rich from is this:

The Big East will invite TCU to join as a football-only member. That move was a foregone conclusion prior to Tuesday's meeting. The real reason for the pomp and circumstance last week was to pressure the Villanova Wildcats to step up to the plate and become an FBS member.

Of course the sixteen presidents voted in favor of the plan. It's a way to solve nothing about the conference's long-term future, and it causes no pain—to anyone except the Mountain West schools TCU is leaving behind.

In short, it was a McDonald's commercial. Too much hype about a product known all too well.

The tiniest school with the least amount of money manipulates seven large public universities to secure the future of its six Catholic brethren. Providence College is where it all started. Providence College is the Windsor Castle of the Big East with Dave Gavitt, Mike Tranghese and now John Marinatto all calling the 3,938-student Catholic college home.

What's not surprising is the birth of the Big East there—a good idea shared among Seton Hall, Syracuse, UConn, St. John's, Georgetown, Boston College and, of course, Providence. What is surprising? Years later—31, to be exact—the tiny outpost in nondescript Rhode Island dictates the fate of eight BCS-member institutions.

The thinking there suffers from a myopia that is the exact opposite of the broad vision of new Pac-12 commissioner Tom Scott and the cunning empire building of Jim Delaney. Providence's domination, with its six Catholic allies in tow, keeps the Big East dead last among the BCS conferences at $33 million for the total conference per year.

Contrast that amount with the $20 million Northwestern pocketed last year, even though the Wildcats played before about 24,000-28,000 fans.

A program like Pitt's, which averaged 54,000 per home game last year, actually makes $15.88 million less than Northwestern. Each Big East football member takes in $2.875 million in TV revenue per year.

The discrepancy will not be altered much by the addition of TCU. In fact, moving Villanova up may actually cost the eight conference members fees in giveaways to the Wildcats as they make the difficult transition from FCS to FBS.

But Providence and its allies have been skillful in protecting the $1.25 million each of its eight fellow basketball-only members, including Notre Dame, makes.

Notre Dame, with the conference's largest endowment—$4.79 billion—is happy to have Providence call the shots—its $1.2 million endowment is the league's smallest.

The eight BCS members believe they have nowhere to go, and none of them have the guts BYU displayed in opting for independence.

Instead, they prefer to be led around by a greedy dwarf, pleading impotence to their fans when the issue of Northwestern or Vanderbilt revenues comes up.