Tag Archives: Big East

Do Not Mourn This Week

A lot of people seem to be mourning this week as the “last” Big East Tournament is being played at The Garden. The general line you hear from people is how it “will never be the same”.

Part of that is true. We will never again see Syracuse or UConn winning the Big East Tournament and that is a shame. But we will also avoid seeing a 16-team or 14-team tournament that simply went on way too long. Sure, you can argue that it is great that every team (or this year most of them) have a chance at advancing to the NCAA’s, but the fact is conference tournaments should not last five nights. They should not have double-byes in them. How many people even realize that the Big East Tournament started LAST night?

By shrinking back to down to a more manageable size, the Big East is actually returning to its roots. Back in the 19080’s, the tournament had 9 schools with a play-in game the first night and then the quarters, semis and finals. The longest drive any fan had to make to The Garden was about 6 hours and fans didn’t have to buy seven different sets of tickets to see all the action.

Next year won’t restore all of that. I am sure the tourney will be split into sections again. (For instance today’s schedule has an afternoon session and an evening one, each with separate admission.) And it is a lot farther to drive from say Butler to NYC than Pittsburgh to NYC. But, a lot of the old feelings will be back. It will be the crown jewel of its conference again and it will be a showcase for some of the best basketball in the country. Mourn the demise of the Football Big East all you want. I’m looking forward to a new world starting in July.

Back Where It Started

Apparently the Big East name and the Big East tournament venue of the Garden will remain with the Catholic Seven when they split away from the football schools. in addition, the split may come as soon as next season. It’s the right decision because it honors what the Big East once was and what it might become again- the best basketball conference in the country.

Back in the 80’s Big East basketball ruled the NCAA. The catholic schools that had banded together to from the league were the best in the nation. But then the siren song of football came and ruined it. Miami was brought in and suddenly the Big East became a strange mix of schools that had football teams and schools that didn’t. Eventually other conferences, especially the ACC, started raiding the Big East and taking away teams until the league became a geographic joke.

So now the league has seven basketball-only members and it sounds like they will add two great basketball programs in Butler and Xavier. All the schools will end up with much more TV money than they would have had in the old league but there are stories that they will then expand to 10 or 12 teams. Personally, I hope they don’t for now. The football landscape keeps shifting and if you follow the money it looks like there is more change to come. The remains of the Big East are now a second-tier football conference leaving a “Big Five”. But, of those five, the ACC is starting to lag behind the others in terms of TV money. It won’t happen overnight, but I suspect that the best of the ACC will eventually get lured away to the Big-10, Pac-10, SEC and Big-12, leaving only a Big Four.

If that happens, there will be schools in the ACC left out in the cold, perhaps schools that have very good basketball programs. Perhaps even some of the schools that left the Big East for the ACC. At that point, if the Catholic 7 has remained small and focused they might benefit by aligning with those schools. Stay tuned.

The Big “East”?

The Big East announced today that Memphis will be joining the conference as a member in all sports.  This follows on the heels of additions such as San Diego State, Houston, SMU and Boise State.  The league is a far cry from its roots as a small, basketball-oriented league mostly made up of catholic universities.

Obviously, the culprit here is football and the efforts of all the conferences to keep inflating their share of the pie. By adding San Diego State, Boise State and Navy as football only members, the Big East will have 12 schools that play football and be able to have the coveted “Conference Championship”.  The basketball side will be a ridiculous 16-team conference.  More absurdly, when the football teams are split into divisions, one will be named “Western”.  Clearly, a new name is needed for this conference.

But more importantly, is anyone thinking about the students in all of this? We are about a month away from March Madness and being bombarded with those messages about how the NCAA cares about the “student” part in student-athlete, but that claim seems increasingly laughable.  Taylor Branch wrote an excellent piece in the Atlantic on the NCAA and its nefarious ways and Joe Nocera has written several good pieces in the Times about them. I know we all wink when we talk about these kids going to classes, but setups like the Big East’s show just how big a sham this is.

Think about a Big East basketball player in a few years playing for Houston.  Their closest road trip will be a four-hour drive/1-hour plane ride to Dallas.  But, they will also have trips to Memphis, Chicago, New York, Washington D.C. and plenty of other cities in between.  Now some of these games will be on weekends, but the Big East routinely plays plenty of games on weeknights.  For example, last night Providence traveled to Villanova and tonight there are three games including Notre Dame traveling to West Virginia.  As the trips get longer it seems pretty likely that more class days will be missed yet the NCAA keeps allowing these conferences to grow bigger and bigger and more and more geographically diverse.

The brutal truth is that 99% of these players are not going to make it to a professional league.  They are going to need the education they were supposed to get in college to make it in the world.  Shouldn’t the NCAA make it easier for them to learn?