After the Notre Dame Fighting Irish jumped ship in all sports but basketball to the ACC, everyone and their mother(including me) were piling on the demise of the Big East Conference. But that’s not to say there isn’t some silver linings in the otherwise gray cloud for the basketball side of the league. Unfortunately, new Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco is going to have his hands full. But the cupboard isn’t completely empty and here are some ways the conference can help save itself from being relegated to Mid-Major status.
Markets: The Big East might be losing some traditional basketball powers in the Syracuse Orange and Pittsburgh Panthers, but they are adding some interesting teams. Not that Memphis is on the same level as those schools, they just aren’t that far behind. Houston is also an intriguing team being added to the fold, not because they have a good hoops program, but because they play in the state of Texas.
By adding Houston and Memphis, the Big East is adding 2 markets(Texas is the big one) to their already impressive lineup of programs playing in big TV markets. Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Texas, Washington D.C., are all big time markets and a good way to build the conference. SMU and Houston both play in Texas, while both play in totally different Texas Markets(Houston in Houston, SMU in Dallas).
While SMU and Houston aren’t coming in with the same swag level as Syracuse is leaving with, they do come in with a better ability to promote their schools. For some reason or another, Texas is one of the hugest markets in the country, yet on a basketball level, the potential of using its size hasn’t been utilized yet.
Aresco can try to force programs like Houston and SMU to build around their cities. Which in turn, would help build the audience the Big East would be reaching. Reaching the biggest audience will help get the best players in the country come play in the conference. With the exposure those markets bring, it adds another element to the mix…
Money: Far be it for me to tell you that money is important in any business. Using the markets to bring money won’t be as hard as you think. Houston, SMU, or whoever you want to say, doesn’t necessarily have to be that good. Just by having them play in your conference, in those size markets, will naturally add a lot of eyeballs to the picture box and indirectly the Big East.
Also, while the Big East’s football league might be down, those huge markets are still there. Adding extra revenue for the conference and schools to use where they deem fit.
Hopefully the money will be put to good use. The universities can use it to pay top-tier coaches, state of the art facilities, or even brand new arenas. The Conference can use it to keep expanding(in whatever direction they plan), advertising, or just building the brand from the inside by hiring the smartest people to work for them. They already got one of those….
Mike Aresco: This might be Aresco’s first crack at being a conference commissioner but this isn’t his first high pressure job. Aresco was an exec for CBS Sports and helped build that brand to a more than respectable level. Added to that, his picture box background gives him an added advantage in negotiating TV deals and what would give the conference the best national exposure. I’ve written what Aresco’s direction should be for the Big East in the past, but don’t doubt for a second that Aresco doesn’t already have his own plan in place.
Direction: Opinions aside, the Big East has to have a clear direction in which they want to go. They need to offer things another conference doesn’t, or at least, offer a better product than rival conferences. If they want to be a basketball conference, great. Nearly all the money generated from the major sports can be used to help build the basketball division. If it’s football, the same applies. They are not as far from still being the best hoops league than they are a football juggernaut.
So opinions back in, the smart move maybe to focus on hoops first, polish it up, and reclaim the title of best basketball conference in the country. With the way the realignments are going, especially with the football money grab, the Big East is so far behind that it might be the smart move to play patient conference until the dust settles. Some of the conferences we’ve been hailing as winning the race(by adding schools) might be making bad moves and in a few years we will realize it was all just fool’s gold.
Despite what I’ve written in the past and what many of you think, I care deeply for the Big East. I grew up going to Madison Square Garden and rooting for the St. John’s Red Storm. The fear I have of this league becoming irrelevant is not one I’m happy about. Aresco and the Big East are losing a battle against other so-called “Power Conferences”. That doesn’t mean they can’t recover or use the assets they have to build a great brand. It just means they have a longer road to go than their competitors.
All these conferences are independent businesses that try to build their brand to be the best. For many years the Big East was considered the best basketball conference in the country. I don’t care what anybody says, Memphis isn’t Syracuse and Temple isn’t Pittsburgh. No matter how you try to break it down, those schools are just not on the same national level as already established products.
Hopefully, the Big East can make the unfinished products they’re bringing in, with the already solid products they currently have, into a lineup of programs people care about. I think they can, I know they can, but I also “knew” Santa Claus was real when I was 5.
Call me naive, but I still want to believe in Santa the same way I want to believe in the Big East.