I found myself thinking a lot about the SWC yesterday. A lot of young fans probably have no memory of the SWC and might even assume it's one of those historically-black conferences that sends one team to the NCAA Tournament every year.
In fact, the Southwest Conference was briefly the best football conference in the nation and always among consideration for the best. Consisting of teams from only two states for most of its existence, it was a dominant force in college football in the 1950s and 1960s. Texas won the National Title in 1963 and Arkansas followed them with a title of their own in 1964. In 1969, the two schools played a de facto championship game in the final game of the season, in which No. 1 Texas beat No. 2 Arkansas.
Texas A&M, SMU, TCU, Rice and Baylor also put in some good years in the 50's, 60's 70's and 80's until the conference disbanded. Most of the teams moved on to what is now the Big 12, others were left to bounce around second-tier conferences and Arkansas went to the SEC. Through conference realignment, they've shifted and shuffled around a few more times.
At the time, it must have been devastating for longtime SWC fans. These were your rivals. This was your conference. This was life as you knew it.
But you know what, all of those fans got over it. Texas, Arkansas, Texas A&M and the rest are all doing just fine (except maybe Houston & SMU) and no one is clamoring for the revival of the SWC. It's dead, it shall remain dead and life moves on without it.
As crazy as it might seem that the Big East is about to die, we'll all get over it and life will go on. Pretty soon, there will be Syracuse fans, Georgetown fans, Louisville fans and Villanova fans who don't even understand why you care so much about the "Big East glory days." So it goes.
While Dana O'Neill continues to nail The Catholic 7 to a cross and pray at their feet, Andy Katz took some time to reminisce about the Big East in a much saner way. It's a nice read and one that any longtime Big East fan, regardless of where your school is now or where its going, can appreciate.
Some choice nuggets:
No league might ever again have the coaching that came through the Big East during its early years. Nothing will compare to John Thompson Jr., Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun, Lou Carnesecca and Rollie Massimino coaching against one another.
Speaking of Syracuse, its rivalry with Georgetown was a matchup that really helped popularize the game during the 1980s. We can only hope the two will continue to square off in the future.
Just my opinion: I realize it's a long way from home, but a Syracuse game in MSG always felt cozier and more intimate than an Orange game in the Carrier Dome. There's something special about seeing all of that orange at the Garden for a college game.
Katz also mentions that he thinks the decline of St. John's had a much bigger effect than people think and the appeal of The Catholic 7 isn't as great as people are making it out to be (really, other than Georgetown and Marquette, the others are inconsistent at best).
Finally, Katz wants to make it clear he does not believe ESPN has a vested interest in the Big East crumbling. Remember, it was Marinatto and the Providence folks who turned down ESPN's TV deal. You can argue it wasn't a great deal but, if you take that deal, maybe some of the schools, even Syracuse, stays. It's a what-if you can ask forever because we'll never know.