Money will always lead to decisions that don’t always make the most sense and in the case of the Big East, things are no different.
Football rules the college sports landscape and no matter how hard basketball tries they’ll always be second fiddle to the gridiron game.
Because of this the nation just lost one of its greatest basketball conferences as things will never be the same after the departure of seven Catholic schools.
The non-football playing DePaul Blue Demons, Georgetown Hoyas, Marquette Golden Eagles, Providence Friars, St. John’s Red Storm, Seton Hall Pirates, and the Villanova Wildcats have announced their intentions to leave the conference.
One big reason they’re leaving is because of the continuous moves by the conference to put basketball in the backseat while trying to raise the Big East’s football reputation. The constant realignment that saw schools with respectable football programs but questionable basketball programs join the conference became the breaking point for the schools.
When the conference added schools like the Tulane Green Wave, SMU Mustangs and Houston Cougars it bolstered their football competition but ignored the harm it was doing to the basketball side. The Catholic seven didn’t want any of the three schools because they offered little to improve the conference’s basketball reputation. Previous Conference USA additions like the Louisville Cardinals and the Cincinnati Bearcats have worked out wonderfully for the conference but it hasn’t worked for DePaul or the South Florida Bulls. The two teams have only one winning season each in conference play since joining the Big East. They went to the well one too many times thinking a match-up between the Connecticut Huskies and Houston would be appealing to the masses.
The seven Catholic schools don’t play football in the conference and when the Big East made it clear football was their top priority and they didn’t care what it did to basketball, the decision to leave became that much easier.
There’s no denying when compared to football, basketball can’t measure up from a financial point of view. More money will always be generated through football than basketball in the grand scheme of things. The conference making football its top priority is simply a dollars matter. Regardless, given the basketball power the Big East was and still is today, how could those in charge ever ignore what they had?
To think this conference once had three teams in a Final Four, continuously was one of the top conferences placing the most teams in the NCAA Tournament and to this day has five teams ranked in the AP’s top 25. How could greed be allowed to let things fall this far?
Surely there was still plenty of money to be made from a basketball standpoint. Georgetown games practically market themselves given the school’s history. Although with recent losses of big powers to the ACC like the Syracuse Orange and Louisville, the basketball side had already taken a big hit.
Could the conference’s basketball survive with those losses? Absolutely. Any time the foundation can be built around Georgetown and Connecticut there’s still money to be made.
However, after already feeling the blow from losing teams to the ACC, along with the conference’s disrespect, the Catholic seven looked around and realized there is money to be made from their basketball programs. Only it’s no longer under the Big East umbrella.
The seven schools took their ball, left the unappreciative conference and what their future holds remains to be seen. What the future holds for Big East basketball also remains to be seen.
One thing is for sure, one of the greatest conferences in the history of college basketball will soon be no more. A conference that has featured coaching legends such as Jim Calhoun, Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim and legendary players like Patrick Ewing, Carmelo Anthony, Ray Allen, Dwayne Wade and Allen Iverson will soon be no more.