Saturday, December 15, 2012

Does the Big East still exist?

So the basketball-only part of the Big East is no longer part of the Big East; the Catholic schools withdrew from the conference (but did not entirely dissolve it) Saturday in maybe the only realignment-related thing that has made sense in the history of realignment. They're gone to some conference (which may or may not yet exist) in which basketball relevance isn't totally and completely meaningless in both financial decisions and every month other than March.

What's left: As of right now, Cincinnati, UConn, South Florida and Temple (and Louisville and Rutgers in the short term). That's it; those were the only football-playing schools left before today anyway. But as of next year it'll be those four plus Boise State, Houston, San Diego State, Memphis, Central Florida and SMU, and as of 2015 it'll be those 10 plus East Carolina, Tulane and Navy. So really, there are still gonna be 13 football-playing schools in the Big East, as there were gonna be before the basketball-related drama.

That's not so bad from a volume standpoint; there's no reason the Big East can't survive with 13 teams (or 12 or 14 or whatever). It is so bad from a quality standpoint, though. I've been saying for a while that the Big East is basically The New Conference USA, which ... like ... yeah, pretty much. Nine of the aforementioned 13 schools were in Conference USA as of five years ago, and Boise State and San Diego State have been in functionally equivalent conferences. And without basketball (which doesn't really matter in most cases but did kinda matter for the Big East given all the prominent programs in NYC/Washington/Philadelphia/Generic Large Metro Area), that steaming pile of mediocrity is even less desirable from a TV standpoint.

Does that matter? No and yes. It doesn't matter in a sense that the various schools included in that steaming pile of mediocrity have nowhere obviously preferable to go (the Mountain West, WAC, etc., are even less relevant at this point). It does matter in a sense that whatever revenue the currently-being-negotiated TV deal produces is gonna be so insubstantial compared to that of the five major conferences that (a) any team that becomes desirable in some hypothetical realignment scenario will be gone and (b) the geographical outliers -- Boise, specifically -- might prefer to get peanuts in the Mountain West rather than get peanuts in the Big East. Keep in mind that there'll be no competitive benefit to being in the Big East once the playoff-type thing gets implemented in 2014; the "group of five" not-really-relevant conferences (including the Big East) will collectively have one autobid for the highest-ranked champion, so being in the Mountain West might actually be better in that regard if it equates to a better chance to run the table.

Here's the money graf (or four money grafs) from The 700 Level:
There's little denying these schools stand to make more money as a group in a makeshift Big East than they would in their former conferences — C-USA, MAC, MWC, independent (Navy).

This is the only way to write it any clearer than (Temple athletic director Bill) Bradshaw said it Wednesday night: It's about money.

By no means do I aim to argue that the Big East is guaranteed success. It is very possible the conference will soon face the realization that having programs in and around major TV markets does not equate to a meaningful number of individual televisions in those markets.

But until Aresco comes back with a deal in hand, and until its clear just how much money each member school will receive, reserve judgment on the Big East.
According to CBS, at least a few of the pending members have out clauses in their contracts related to the amount of the Big East's new TV deal. If it's sizable (like somewhere in the vicinity of $100 million), yay happy times stability etc.; if it's not and some combination of Boise State/San Diego State/Houston/Navy think they can do better, not happy times (and definitely not stability).

One hilarious possibility:
Sources close to the discussions told Sporting News on Friday that one possibility to give the Bearcats and Huskies a home, which is at the early stages of discussion, would be a cross-continent all-sports league involving disenfranchised members of the Big East as well as the most prominent members of the Mountain West.

The proposed entrants would be UConn, Cincinnati, South Florida, Memphis, Temple, Boise State, San Diego State, UNLV, New Mexico and possibly BYU or Central Florida.
So Cincinnati and UConn basically wanna leave the Big East to form a marginally better Big East. Sucks to be you, East Carolina/Tulane/Navy. Whatever generates a little more money, I guess. This seems like the appropriate place to point out that the Big East turned down a $1 billion offer (srsly) from ESPN about 19 months ago. Yeah. That's all I got.

Just know that the Big East will probably be extant for the foreseeable future but probably won't ever be anything better than the bastardized version of Conference USA that it is right now. So adjust your mental interpretation/translation of the words "the Big East" accordingly.


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