The Big East…Not the Big East ?
THE BIG ACC
See if you detect a pattern forming here. More to the point, see if you smell a rose by another name. More than a decade ago Big East officials first began hearing warnings about their tenuous status as a BCS league if they insisted on maintaining hy-brid status, some members playing football, other members refusing to commit to a division I-A football upgrade but maintaining membership in all other sports. The first indications that the warnings weren’t hollow came ten years ago when Miami and Virginia Tech, then, a few months later, original member Boston College were invited to join the Atlantic Coast Conference. Without hesitation all three schools eagerly made the leap, understanding their own status would be as shaky as that of the Big East if they didn’t take advantage of the opportunity. Still Big East officials failed to see the storm clouds gathering. Efforts to fill vacancies and increase the size of the football league were based on preserving the structure of the Big East basketball league, even in the face of growing evidence that football would become the legislative force in the NCAA. In 2012, with the Big East trying to piece together an alignment that made little sense, the ACC grabbed up two of the Big East’s longest established members, Syracuse, an original, and Pittsburgh, which joined the league in it’s second year. When the ACC made overtures to Notre Dame last fall, offering it independence in football and a home for all other sports, the ACC had claimed six key members of the Big East and, when Louisville became the seventh late in the year, most of the traditional rivalries that established the Big East as the nation’s top basketball league, had been irradicated. The Big East, a shadow of what it once was in basketball while failing to establish itself in football, had become so devalued the seven schools for which it had jeopardized it’s status decided they could slice up a bigger pie of their own by forming their own Catholic basketball league, leaving just one original member, UConn, committed to the league after the 2015 academic year, with none of the original, traditional rivalries. Anyone who believes conference realignment is finished only need look at the numbers. Three conferences, the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12, are still on the prowl with North Carolina, and perhaps Duke, a perfect match for the Big Ten, Florida State a tempting commodity to both the Big 12 and the SEC and Clemson considering a conference move. The ACC, while saying it’s done for now, is likely to be forced into more moves to fill in it’s own raided membership, and again the Big East offers two attractive options, geographically, financially, athletically and academically, UConn and South Florida. The ACC is on course to do to the Big East what the Big East should have done to itself a decade ago. As the ACC the Big East will be a rose by another name, with many of the original Big East rivalries once again intact, while whatever becomes of the Big East will be unrecognizable by that name. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.