The Final Nail is in the Coffin for the “OLD” Big East
LONG LIVE THE BIG EAST
The Big East is dead, long live the Big East. And yesterday the Big East insured a long life, with a new identity, when the Catholic Seven drove the final nail into the league that sacrificed itself by carrying them too long, by purchasing the name “Big East”, adding Butler and Xavier with an option on Creighton and announcing they will expidite their plans and begin play next season. Adding insult to injury, what sealed the deal and expidited the move, was a television contract that will net all seven schools more money than they would have been guaranteed in the old league. FOX Sports will make the new Big East a centerpiece of one of it’s new networks, each school netting at least three million dollars a year. One thing yet to be determined is who gets Madison Square Garden for it’s basketball tournament, the new Big East or, for lack of a better name, “Big Least” being too easy a cheap shot, “The Remnants”, which includes UConn. Do the math or, more accurately, the geography. The new Big East includes five of the charter Big East members and all, St. John’s, Villanova, Seton Hall, Georgetown and Providence are northeast corridor schools within driving distance of Madison Square Garden. Only one of “The Remnants” fits that description, and the Garden isn’t likely to have much interest in Houston, SMU, Memphis, Tulane, Cincinnati and South Florida as a trade off. To the victor goes the spoils and, make no mistake about it, the seven Catholic schools are the victors in the break up of the Big East, because the football schools refused to acknowlege what was happening in college athletics more than a decade ago and weild their power when they had it. There aren’t enough spin doctors at the Big East offices in Providence to put a silver lining on the scenario facing “The Remnants” of a once proud league that was a full player in the BCS with a basketball league that was the envy of the nation but now goes into a five league run off for one BCS berth while the departing football schools take with them most of the programs that made Big East basketball so great. The spin doctors won’t even have that office in Providence to spin out of anymore, with the search already underway for a new commissioner for the new Big East, which is likely to headquarter itself in New York while the center of the “League of Distinquished Remnants” shifts to somewhere in the midwest. After dealing with the oddity of teams from Idaho, California and Texas being in a league called the Big East, the old Big East holdovers now appear to be the odd men out with SMU, Houston, Tulane and Memphis and three of those holdovers are already battling over ACC invitations that don’t yet exist. With the FOX contract expiditing the departure of the Catholic Seven, Notre Dame is now expected to move up it’s own exit strategy and join the ACC, or play one year in the new Big East until it’s ACC berth is ready, beginning next season. The handwriting was on the wall for Big East officials fifteen years ago when networks refused to negotiate basketball contracts until football contracts were in place. They failed to act. They failed to act a decade ago when the handwriting jumped off the wall and Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech jumped to the ACC. They, somewhat miraculously, still had time to save themselves two years ago and at least retain Syracuse, Pitt, Rutgers and Louisville, but they turned down a lucrative football T-V contract. At every turn they shot themselves in the foot by putting basketball ahead of football, in a college sports world where the opposite was the reality, until the tail wagged the dog and the only foresight on display in the league was at the Catholic schools. The Big East is dead, long live the Big East. With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.