Adding Boise State to the conference is a game-changer (Photo by Otto Kitsinger III/Getty Images)
Well, okay then. If that's the stance the Big East is taking, fine. But before we delve into this expansion stuff, this doesn't justify the conference in saying that Pitt, Syracuse, and later, West Virginia, were wrong to leave.
It's not the teams they added - in my opinion, the Big East did a heck of a job to make itself relevant in football (Basketball? We'll get to that in a bit) - it's the fact that it took so darn long. Had the Big East made this type of move earlier this year, we'd be talking about just how much better the conference would be (and more on that in a separate post).
The fact remains that the conference drug its feet and instead of having a dramatically improved league, the Big East is fighting just to stay alive. And if you think this is the end of Big East expansion and everything is fine from here on out, think again. I happen to agree with this sentiment in that UConn would still bolt for the ACC given the chance and believe others could be swayed elsewhere.
Even UConn threw out the cryptic quote about not currently being in discussions ('currently' being the operative word):
"UConn is not in discussion with any other athletic conference officials at this time," she said. "We have not, in my time at the Big East, discussed any time commitments for institutions."
But that's another story for another time ...
Okay, so let's look at the moves.
The Big East has gone nationwide literally overnight. With the addition of Houston, SMU, Boise State, San Diego State, and Central Florida, the conference's reach goes from east to west.
My opinion? I think the Big East did as good of a job as it possibly could have.
In Boise State, they've added a perennial top ten team. Houston had a great season and the others have had good years in recent memory. I won't go as far as Rick Pitino, who thinks the football side is better - Pitt's struggles this season notwithstanding, losing the Panthers and West Virginia (Syracuse? Well, okay ... got me there), but I do think it's not a huge step down.
I've read a lot today about how adding those schools makes the football side considerably stronger, but the easy thing to forget is that eight wins in C-USA isn't exactly the same thing as eight wins in the Big East. Let's see how those teams do with playing a slightly tougher schedule.
Still, adding a team like the Broncos is really a game-changer since they've been so good for so many years now. In a nutshell, I like the moves for football.
Basketball? Not so much. Adding Central Florida, SMU, and Houston for hoops really diminishes the conference in my opinion. I understand you've got to give a little to get a little, but adding those three basketball programs does absolutely nothing to even begin to replace Pitt, Syracuse, and West Virginia. Not only are the Panthers, Orange, and Mountaineers leaving, but the Big East is adding three insignificant programs. That's a double whammy to a degree and really just adds fluff without any substance.
ESPN.com Big East blogger Andrea Adelson is less than impressed by the recent additions. I get that the conference still isn't all that stable, but as I've argued before, the Big East can at least now afford to lose a few more teams if it came to that now. Such a loss is far from ideal, but with these teams, the conference can still survive. And while I understand her concern about the lack of rivalries and there being no geographical rhyme or reason, I think this is the new standard. Conferences have been moving away from this and it's only going to get worse. Complaining about that is a bit short-sighted.
Then, there are the teams that aren't coming in. We already went over BYU a short time ago. Navy isn't making the move due to a few obstacles, including schedules and bowl tie ins. And Air Force has decided (or had it decided for them ... whatever) that they're staying in the Mountain West. Then there's East Carolina. I personally thought they would be a good school to add and said as much in prior posts, but no such luck for them.
So now that this has gone down, does this mean Pitt and Syracuse could get out early?
Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross thinks it's possible:
"I would think that things could possibly change, and of course I'm not in the Big East meetings so I don't know. I think it's in everyone's best interest to move on as soon as possible because you're trying to create structures and new cultures and those types of things."
But for now, the conference will have 19 basketball teams for the 2013-14 season.
Welcome to the new Big East.