The Big East as we know it is no more

Chris Trotman

The Catholic schools finally have had enough. I feel no sympathy for them.

It happened. It finally happened. The Big East as we know it is likely no more.

The "Catholic 7" (the non-football schools) have decided that Tulane was way too beneath them and are cutting ties with the football schools (Cincinnati, South Florida, and UConn). Part of me is happy for them - I grew up watching Big East basketball since the early 90's. The Big East Tournament was the conference tournament to watch. I'm glad to see the traditional schools return to their roots. They never belonged in a world where football reigned supreme. This is a move that should have happened a decade ago.

Yet part of me is angry. And seeing articles like this written by ESPN's Dana O'Neil or this written by the New York Post's Lenn Robbins doesn't help. It didn't have to turn out this way.

I may be biased, as a fan of a soon-to-be former Big East football school, but why are schools like Pitt and Syracuse and West Virginia receiving the blunt of the blame for the destruction of the Big East? Where is the anger and frustration directed towards Providence in the national media? Or Seton Hall? Or DePaul? Schools who have been surviving and leeching off the conference's elite, and amongst the high-majors of college basketball not based on merit, but by association with the Big East. Programs who hesitated at expansion of the football side initially because they were worried about watering down the basketball side.

Who knows if college football will continue to be the money-grabber it is currently in the next 20 years. But for the past decade and probably for the next one, it is, and the basketball schools never embraced it as the potential cash cow it could be. Consider this - at its peak, the Big East had members in many prominent television markets: New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., Miami. Even in the later years, when the conference had Tampa and Chicago and Milwaukee. That was valuable market that had the Big East could have stayed together could have brought in huge rewards for the conference. But due to the reluctance of the Catholic schools to expand and finally when the Big East turned down ESPN's initial media deal, it became a matter of when, not if, the Big East would collapse.

Ultimately, the two sides were never destined to work. One could argue that from the get-go, this division was doomed to fail the same way the old WAC of the 90s fell apart. There was always two sides to every decision and even each individual side had eight slightly varying opinions. The fact that this model held up for nearly a decade is a small victory for the Big East.

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