The PAC-12 didn't steal the Longhorns. The Big Ten annexed only Nebraska. The Big East added...TCU and Villanova (maybe)?
History books will show that a summer ago, Money-Induced College Sports Merge-itis dominated the sports talk airwaves but resulted in few conference realignments. The history books also might show how the Big East Conference was screwed again. Don't get me wrong; it'll be to cool watch S.U. play football in Fort Worth. That game should never be a division game, though. And I know UConn made the jump from FCS to FBS, but 12,000 people at a Villanova football game shouldn't cut it for our league.
So, in the spirit of the pending 'Nova decision, our new friends at Big East Coast Bias, and my overall desire for a conference that means something and plays each other all major sports, I give you the Pipe-Dream Big East. It's the conference as it should be, drawn in three steps on a napkin at Easter brunch:
Pipe-Dream Big East Step One: The ACC Takes A Hike
Look above, and you'll see Jacksonville Municipal Stadium, home to the 2007 ACC Championship that pitted Matt Ryan's Boston College Eagles against Tyrod Taylor and the Hokies. You'll also see how empty that stadium is--and the overall talent in the ACC hasn't increased since. The end result is a huge drop in attendance for all ACC football -- and not just title games -- says this November 11th, 2010 article in USA Today:
"Overall, the 12 ACC teams have filled just 87.23 percent of seats, leaving the league on pace for its fifth decline in the last six years. Coaches and league officials blame the drop on the economy and on-field performance."
The economy isn't stopping SEC and PAC-12 fans. Not saying the Big East is a cash-cow, but only Virginia Tech can bank on home sellouts for football. The other "big football schools" of the ACC -- Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia Tech -- can't sell seats.
So I say scrap the league. Give the Big East some (not all) of your teams, and we'll call the new conference the Big East because it sounds better. And when Winter comes around...
SU vs. Duke and SU vs. North Carolina
UConn vs. Duke and UConn vs. North Carolina
Louisville vs. Duke and Louisville vs. North Carolina
Getting 11 teams in to the tourney would be the norm. The best basketball conference in the country gets better.
Pipe-Dream Big East Step Two: Nabs Some Northern Big Guns
You may say that annexing both Penn State and Notre Dame is plain foolish -- it is right now. But put the basketball possibilities aside and think pure football. The revenue from a Nittany Lions/Hurricanes Championship would be astronomical. Same could be said for a Fighting Irish/Seminoles Championship Game. The new Big East Network would no longer need to piggy-back off of ESPN. It would ooze cash.
Then there's the basketball: ACC Basketball is good because of Duke and North Carolina and not much else. Seeing them align in a super-conference would only sweeten the pot for Notre Dame (who's already a member) and Penn State (who used to be a member). Sign up for football and the basketball check in the mail is our gift to you.
Throw in the easy access to Florida recruits, and you may have yourself a deal.
Pipe-Dream Big East Step Three: Stress A Regional Schedule Without Basketball-Only Schools
Take a page from the SEC, which groups teams with close geographic locations to form natural rivalries. This means that the map up there of the current Big East won't do. Save for Maryland, teams located on either side of the Mason-Dixon line will be the two divisions. From there, you keep your Florida rivalries, your New York/Conneticut/New Jersey dynamic, and the Penn State vs. Notre Dame import. You renew the Penn State/Miami and Notre Dame/Miami rivalry. And the hope is you get some cool new rivalries, such as:
Rutgers vs. Miami (aka The Schiano Scuffle)
Pittsburgh vs. Penn State (aka the Keystone Battle)
Maryland vs. UConn (aka The Esdall Bowl)
SU vs. Notre Dame (The Snowball War)
Now for the bad news. If you can't carry your weight for football, you're out. Daryl Gross can get on the horn and book out-of-conference basketball games with Georgetown and Villanova. The rest of the Big East castoffs (Marquette, DePaul, Providence, Hall, St. John's, etc.) realign in their own basketball-only conference -- add in replacements like Butler and Xavier and that conference could be very good.
A few of the current Big East teams won't make the cut. They'll align with someone else. Oh, and no TCU. Look at the map, it's just too out there. So, without further ado, I give you:
The Pipe-Dream Big East:
• UConn Huskies
• Penn State Nittany Lions
• North Carolina Tarheels
• Florida State Seminoles
For football, the teams would play one game against the teams in their own division (7 games), then half of the teams in the other division every other year (11 games), then 2 out-of-conference games (13 games) and a Championship Game. Kinda like the SEC.
I know I'll have some dissenters. Let me know what you'd change, and keep in mind...it's a pipe dream.