The move makes sense for Pitt and Syracuse for a few reasons. First, football and men’s basketball are the real moneymakers in college athletics and the two schools have taken a step up for their football programs. The ACC is no SEC; however, it does offer a championship game (added revenue for schools) and like the Big East the champion receives an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game. Second, with the likes of Virginia Tech, Miami and Florida State the ACC offers more respect from a football stance. The Big East recently has become a running joke among ‘the power conferences.’ Last year’s Big East champion Connecticut was blown out 48-20 by the Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl.
From a basketball perspective the move seems more horizontal rather than vertical. The Big East has become the pinnacle of college basketball with a record setting 11 out of the 16 teams making the NCAA tournament last year. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are powers in the conference, but they are not the only storied programs in the Big East. Not including Syracuse, six Big East schools have won a national championship (Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, Louisville, Cincinnati and UConn).
Although there have been signs of tension inside the Big East for some time, the surprise of this move comes from the speed in which it happened. Less than 24 hours after first being announced that Pittsburgh and Syracuse were interested in the ACC, the move became official. The Big East then has to move quickly if it is to remain intact. First to insure its own survival, the league must meet and decide its future. It might look into increase the buyout for its remaining members (ala the ACC). It also might decide to fold its football league and remain an important conference in all other sports (ala the Atlantic 10). That option, however, seems unlikely. Football is just too large an income and the Big East still holds an automatic BCS bid. The league needs to find new members, and quickly before another member jumps overboard. There have been reports potentially linking Rutgers and UConn to the ACC as well. That would leave the Big East with only 5 football member schools (USF, Louisville, Cincinnati, West Virginia and TCU).
If the Big East does not move quickly, its death could be imminent. Should the league fold the question becomes what happens to the basketball only schools (Notre Dame, Villanova and Georgetown being the power 3). Some other conference would benefit greatly. Perhaps Villanova would join the Atlantic 10 with city rivals La Salle, Saint Joe and Temple already members. That would certainly help improve the A-10 from a high mid-major to a major conference overnight and restore the national attention back to the Big 5 rivalry. Over the next couple months the chips will continue to fall on the conference roulette table and it certainly seems like it will be a wild ride.
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