Brad Wolverton over at Chronicle.com is reporting that two two Big East members have discussed leaving the conference to start a new league built around traditional basketball powers.
According to sources who were involved in the discussions at two Big East institutions, the colleges have discussed the possibility of a so-called Super Basketball Conference that could seek to add Butler, Temple, Xavier, or others. The sources were unwilling to publicly identify either institution because of the early stage of talks.
First of all, God that all sounds awfully familiar...
Second of all, why wouldn't they at this point?
The ironic thing about the Big East's recent expansion, meant to save the brand, is that it invariable cheapened it due to the "coast-to-coast" football status and the weakening of Big East basketball as a whole.
While John Marinatto and Rick Pitino hover over the Big East brand like Gollum delicately savoring his Precious, the brand is officially at its lowest point ever. Historical members Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia are leaving. A school from Idaho and a school in California are joining. Big East basketball, already full of too many mediocre basketball programs, now has to take on SMU, Houston and UCF and hope at least one of them shows promise beyond finishing .500 in the conference.
It's usually around this time that someone says, "Well, it's Syracuse and Pitt's fault for leaving," which is a little bit like blaming the people on lifeboats scurrying away from the Titanic while it sinks. The Big East hit the iceberg long before SU, Pitt and WVU made their moves.
If I'm Georgetown, Villanova, St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall and Marquette, I get together and do exactly what is being bandied about in this rumor. I tell Xavier, Butler, UMass, Temple and Memphis about it right away. I think about whether or not I want to involve folks like George Mason, George Washington, Hofstra, Richmond or Dayton.
And then I announce that we're all leaving the Big East to form the Big Northeast or whatever you want to call it. It might not be the strongest basketball conference in the nation but it's a pretty damn formidable one with a lot of tradition and strong regional rivalry, two things the Big East is bleeding right now.
Yes, the Big East is the one who has the ESPN contract and the name-recognition. It's not as simple as starting over and then waiting for the millions to come flying in. But if you give the TV folks no choice but to recognize you, then they will come. And when you leave, all the Big East money will need to go somewhere...
And if you want to really get down to it, if I'm Georgetown, St. John's, Marquette & Villanova, I think long and hard about whether or not I really need Providence and Seton Hall. The former hasn't been good in years and the latter is spotty at best. At least St. John's brings NYC.
What about DePaul? (What ABOUT DePaul?)
You lose the Big East brand but, look around, does that really hurt all that much? The Big East will never be what it was in the late 80's. If it were a publicly-traded company, you'd be dumping stock like it was Pets.com.
And in a irony of ironies, if this move went down, then the Big East would spend it's final moments as a Frankensteined football-focused national behemoth...the very opposite of what it was intended to be.
"Although they’ve had discussions, I’ve had no indication from any of them that they have serious desires to break away," he said. But he told me it’s hard to know who to trust anymore in the realignment shuffle. "People don’t always tell you the truth. It’s obviously hard to say that and hear that, but it’s something we’ve all learned as we go through this realignment."
Good lawd, John. No one plays the "woe is me, you can't trust people like you used to be able to" card more than Marinatto. And we can all understand why. I mean, the world of college athletics have given us the NCAA, the BCS, point-shaving, Kelvin Sampson, Jim Tressel, SMU's Death Penalty, Baylor's, Nevin Shapiro, Reggie Bush's Heisman, Duke lacrosse, Jerry Sandusky, Bernie Fine and thousands upon thousands of player and coach violations. I just can't believe that world isn't pure as snow.
Marinatto is either naive or stupid. Take your pick as you blame him for he mess the Big East is in. Remember that when the conference ceases to exist one way or another in the next 5-10 years. And if Vilanova, Georgetown, et al. don't move forward with this kind of plan, they're just as dumb as he is.
Check out VUHoops for more on the possibility.