The Big breakup was way overdue
It was only a matter of time, wasn’t it?
The mad rush of the college football conference arms race was bound to have some adverse side effects. It had to. With conference presidents and college administrators reacting to every theory and rumor the last few years, rather than thinking, it’s made for a stampede through the television contract money corral, and things are a far cry from OK.
This new Wild West moves Boise State to the Big East.
A college nestled into the mountains of Idaho, not just on the far side of the Mississippi River, but the far side of the Rockies, a soon-to-be member of a basketball conference, whose name implies its supposed geographic link to New England. In what world did that make sense?
In one where the Pac-12 has members in the Midwest and the Big number conferences — fill in 10 or 12 for what it matters — are easily confused as they horse trade members like baseball cards. The resulting juxtaposition leaves items like tradition, geographical cohesion and — lest it go unsaid — any rational relationship between the number of member schools implied by the conference name and the actual number of conference members.
But maybe it makes sense in a way, since a conference basing its name on its number of members would be changing it every year or so. At least the Big East didn’t stumble into that bear trap as it’s managed to poke a new sprung tentacle into almost every other.
So hooray and hoorah for the soon-to-be former basketball schools of the Big East that finally said enough is enough, we’re getting off this drive before it takes us over our own fiscal cliff.
The only real question is why it took them this long.
The continual addition and subtraction of members has played havoc with their schedules, planning and travel expenses in every sport, and while the football money is an enticement to put up with all this foolishness, a basketball school has no need to suffer it.
The seven Catholic schools now heading out on their own are the best friend everybody has been telling for a while to get out of the relationship that went bad a while back. The one that made a humorous story because — when they finally did — they walked out slamming the door, felt immediately and immensely better, and then realized it was their apartment they’d stormed out of in a fine fury, and their keys were still inside.
It’s a little bit embarrassing to break up this way. The Big East once was a basketball conference that thrived in a football world by dominating the I-95 corridor from DC on up — and filling its coffers off the TV money for the East Coast market that let football go by as a Sunday sport or, at most, a trip back to the alma mater as one of the crowd of 4,000 watching their One Famous Dead White Guy & His Semi-famous Founding Friend play against another such institution.
But then, somehow, the basketball powerhouse got drug into the BCMess in the relationship equivalent of “we’ll go out, but see other people too.” The once-grand poobah amongst the hoops hierarchy could only hope to try and keep the basketball standards somewhat high among the parade of newcomers in its midst.
The breakup is long overdue, and now it’s complicated, awkward, and probably the wrong person gets to keep the real diamond — the name Big East.
Ironically, some of the Southern small schools like Sewanee and Centre understand. They just finished burning down their long-standing conference, name and all, to save it from the expansionist bug.
So at least Villanova and Co. can know life will go on, name or no name.
It’s just a matter of time.
Marcus Fitzsimmons is sports editor at The Daily Times, who enjoys reading comments posted to this column at http://thedailytimes.com