Friday, February 24, 2012

Because it's the Big East

The Big East is not really a conference anymore as much as it is a loose affiliation of teams that want a moderately respected name to play under. It's a conference the way my rec hockey league is a league; the only difference is that the Big East has about twice as many fans (zing!).

I mentioned the additions of Navy and Memphis in my post the other day but didn't mention this kinda-important news item that came out about a week ago:

West Virginia will join the Big 12 for the 2012 season after a lawsuit settlement was reached with the Big East, the school and league announced Tuesday.

The Big East Conference board of directors voted to terminate West Virginia's membership, effective June 30. The vote is conditioned upon WVU fulfilling its obligations under an agreement that resolves the lawsuits between both parties.

West Virginia's obligation is basically just coming up with $20 million, which shouldn't be difficult (the Big 12 is chipping in about half) and isn't as important as what the settlement means: West Virginia football is officially part of the Big 12 and not the Big East. That seems really hard to grasp given all the history and whatnot.

The immediate-aftermath speculation was that Boise State could just accelerate its own realignment timeline and bail on the Mountain West a year early with an obvious opening in the Big East. Not so much:
"While we have had several discussions with the Big East and the WAC in moving our sports into those two leagues a year earlier than previously stated, the University feels there were too many obstacles to overcome to make the move at this time. While there certainly would have been advantages in making the move a year early, it became clear that it would not be fiscally responsible, as all of the expenses associated with early entry into the two conferences would not be covered."
A seemingly accurate estimate put the cost of trying to escape this year at about $10 million; apparently a year in the Big East isn't worth that much.

That leaves the Big East with the following teams for the upcoming season: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse and USF. That's a short list, yes? It has seven teams on it, which is not enough for a full conference schedule; everybody on the list is looking at six nonconference games (six!) this year, which is a ridiculous number and maybe not even doable for some schools without dipping into the FCS pool.

This nonsense ...
Rutgers could compensate for the lost conference football game by playing Syracuse twice next season — once at home, the other away — according to two people familiar with the contingency plans being discussed.
... appropriately demonstrated the ridiculousness of the Big East's current situation before getting shot down by Syracuse's AD. The exact quote:
No. Not an option, and I guess the simplest way to answer it is just no. It's just all wrong. It's not even an option.
I'm unclear on whether it's an option. Sounds like it might be.

Anyway, the Big East obviously has a problem: Six conference games is not sufficient. The logical thing would have been to take a chunk of that $20 million payment from West Virginia and help Boise State buy its way out of the MWC immediately, which of course didn't happen since lol logic.

The inexplicable alternative:
Temple is in talks with the Big East about joining the league as early as 2012, sources confirmed Wednesday. The New York Times first reported on the discussions to add Temple in all sports.

A Temple official said the Owls would not comment. Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon A. Steinbrecher said in a statement Wednesday that his league is "aware that Temple has been in discussions with the Big East regarding membership."
Nothing's official yadda yadda yadda, but it sounds like this is pretty close to official since the A-10 is already conceding the loss of its only nationally relevant basketball program:
"Temple is a valued member of the A-10. However we are well aware that finding the right home for its FBS football program will drive its future membership decision for all sports. The Atlantic 10 is a large, strong league and I will continue to work with our membership in the best interest of the conference."
So yeah. This is the program that was so awful that it got kicked out of the Big East in 2004 (I can't remember that happening to any other school in any other conference). I'm undecided about whether this is more awesome for Temple (which isn't so bad in the post-Al Golden era) or more embarrassing for the Big East; I'm leaning toward the latter and feel that this picture is an appropriate summary:

But here's the thing: Temple has a MAC exit fee of $2.5 million along with a two-year notice as well as a $2 million A-10 exit fee along with a one-year notice. The two-year football notice would be the real problem: If the Big East really wants another team for this year, somebody's gonna have to pony up a big pile of cash (I'd guess at least double the standard $2.5 million) to get Temple out of the MAC.

The possibility exists that Temple is so desperate to get its programs into a major conference that it'll come up with the $5-$10 million on its own, something Boise State wasn't willing to do. If not, the Big East is gonna have a really crappy decision to make: either buy Temple at a cost that could've bought Boise or play the 2012 season with seven schools, which would be extremely problematic for all seven given the scheduling hole West Virginia just created. Stream-of-consciousness thought: I can't believe we're talking about a nominal BCS conference buying Temple. Unfathomable.

Just to be clear, there is a reason other than the holy-crap-we-need-a-team-right-now issue for expanding. Minus West Virginia, the Big East will theoretically have 12 teams at the end of all this ridiculousness, which is the stated goal because of the desire for a conference championship game. But I say "theoretically" because Louisville has been cited by everybody as one of the two probable additions for the Big 12 if it wants to actually be the Big 12 again. Temple would really be serving as Big East insurance against the loss of a conference title game.

In that regard, I understand going to 13. But ... I mean ... Temple? Yeesh. I'd say something like "there's no way the Big East will still have a BCS bid blah blah blah" if the BCS were still gonna exist when this is all settled, but (God willing) it won't. What I will say is that when buying Temple seems like a reasonable option, you've officially reached the point where you're closer to Mountference UWestA than you are to the five real conferences.


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