Big East Basketball: A Great Idea and Tradition to be Wasted

Bermuda BobAnalyst IIOctober 20, 2011

When the Big East was formed in 1979 it was done so as a basketball conference because the corridor from Boston to Washington DC, which was once called the Megalopolis, felt it required a representative conference.  They were right in the minds of just about every basketball fan therein.

The original members were:  Syracuse, UCONN, Boston College, Holy Cross, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Georgetown.  Villanova and PITT were added the next year, and life was good for all concerned for the next 10 years.

Then in 1991, the diminution of the Big East began when they got the greedy idea that being a substantial basketball conference was not enough.  They felt they needed to expand to football.   The rub was that there were not many programmes around who had Big East caliber basketball AND football programs, so they added “football-only” members.

In 1995,  Rutgers, Temple, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and Miami were added in that capacity and each began to play both basketball and football.   In the strangest move, Notre Dame was allowed to join the Big East, but was not required to bring their football team.

The Big East was no longer a conference for Megalopolis programmes, but at least they were still in the eastern time zone.

There was undoubtedly going to be stress on this expansion, because, while it’s nice to “Be All You Can Be,”  it’s more important to remember the words of Polonius: ... to thine own self be true ...  The Big East was trying to be something they were not intended to be.

In 2003, Boston College, Virginia Tech, and Miami left the Big East for the ACC because they realized the level of competition - particularly in football - was compromising their chance to be considered nationally.

So, instead of reevaluating the error of their ways, and feeling pilfered, they raided Conference USA of Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and South Florida.  

Now the conference was certainly “BIG” but they were no longer in the same eastern time zone.  

Temple would be expelled in 2004.

The BCS automatic bid was granted to the Big East in 2008, and another lynchpin in the situation they find themselves today.   No Big East winner has ever been seriously considered in the national championship scheme since then, even though West Virginia and Miami had, at one time, shone brightly.  Cincinnati had a wonderful year in 2009, but Notre Dame pilfered their Head Coach before their bowl game and their season was lost.

Last year, in an effort to get themselves into a conference where they could have a chance of winning that automatic BCS bid, TCU sought admission into the Big East.  What the heck, everyone thought, the conference went north-west to Marquette, why not go south-west and admit them.  

This became the final straw that revealed the convoluted thought process, which was now embodied in Big East Commissioner, John Marinatto.  Soon, PITT and Syracuse would bolt to the ACC, seeing the proverbial handwriting on the wall.  UCONN has not been shy in expressing their desire to do so as well ... there just seems to be no comparable programme to match it and give the ACC the even number of programmes they desire.

It is thought that Louisville and West Virginia may bolt for the Big 12.

So, does Commissioner Marinatto sit the programs down and evaluate the mistakes they have made, where they went wrong, or how to remedy the errors they have made?   Nope.  He suggests that they desperately hold on to football, like a crab on a string being pulled to his demise, and extend invitations to programs FURTHER outside the eastern time zone.


The brightest points of Big East basketball came on numerous occasions with championships, championship appearances, and Final Four appearances, right up to last year when 11 programs were seeded in the Big Dance.   Only Rutgers, Seton Hall and South Florida do not have double-digit Big Dance appearances during their entire basketball histories.


I’ve said all this to try and chronicle what the Big East is seemingly flushing down the proverbial toilet with their obsession over football.  They have sold their soul to the pigskin devil and, in doing so, have forsaken the reason why they were formed - to be a premium basketball conference, representing one of the richest recruiting portions of the country.

If the Big East eventually ceases to exist, the sound of it's exit will be a flushing sound, to remind the last programme out to shut the light off.