As Big East evolves, schools weigh options

Posted: December 15, 2012

With Villanova and other Big East schools that don't play Big East football planning a split from the league - with the announcement expected any day now - here's a little Q and A.

What would Villanova's new league look like? The seven schools planning to split from the Big East - Villanova, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Providence, St. Johns, and Seton Hall - are discussing different models. Expect Big East invitations to Xavier, Butler, and quite possibly Dayton. St. Louis and Creighton. Richmond has come up in talks more than Virginia Commonwealth.

What about going to the West Coast? Gonzaga expressed interest in the league, and the league could look to add the Zags and St. Mary's (Calif.). The upside is obvious. Gonzaga hoops has become a viable brand. The downside, of course, is that this is a league for all sports except football. Even if the league were split into divisions, minor sports teams would have to make their way to Spokane, Wash., to play Gonzaga.

What will Temple's league look like? That's actually a greater unknown right now. Will Boise State, San Diego State, and Navy still join the Big East for football? That's to be determined. Will Connecticut and Cincinnati eventually get to move up to the Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, or one of the other higher-level leagues? To be determined.

Right now, Temple is partnered with those schools, plus South Florida, Central Florida, Southern Methodist, Houston, Memphis, East Carolina, and Tulane. Temple essentially has joined the old Conference USA.

Was the Big East's adding Tulane really the last straw? The move didn't make much strategic sense, but presidents of the basketball-centric schools had the votes to stop it and didn't. That may help indicate how the Big East got into such a mess in the first place.

Could anyone have prevented the Big East from breaking apart? Maybe not, after Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College left. We wrote then that the Big East was going to try a form of sleight-of-hand, elevating schools simply by calling them Big East. It didn't work. Every time a Big East school had a chance to leave for the ACC, Big 12, or Big Ten, that school left. Texas Christian signed on and left before ever playing a game after getting a Big 12 invitation. TCU dropped $5 million on the Big East for its trouble.

How long until Villanova and the others leave? Best guess is the 2014-15 season. So one more dysfunctional season after this one. A new league could use that much ramp-up time.

Who got the worst of realignment so far? If Connecticut can't get into one of the top five leagues, the Huskies will take this honor. Multiple national titles in hoops, preeminent women's hoops, over $100 million put into moving up to the top Football Bowl Subdivision . . . and the ACC didn't want them. The Big Ten took Rutgers instead.

What schools are panicking a little bit? You can't blame UConn and Cincinnati if they are. They appear to be the best picks left in any realignment fantasy draft.

Any half-baked ideas popping up? On Friday, the Sporting News reported on an idea being floated by Cincinnati and UConn, a nationwide all-sports league that would include Temple. Basically, it would include the top teams left in Big East, except New Mexico and Brigham Young instead of Tulane, Houston, and SMU. Sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen, with UConn and Cincinnati looking to leave the league they are proposing. That's college sports today in a nutshell.

What about the Atlantic Ten? The A-10 has to be prepared for a raid, and it did prepare for one preemptively by adding Butler and VCU. The league also invited George Mason, which considered joining but turned down the bid. Butler and Xavier are expected to receive bids to the new league with the Big East's nonfootball separatists and would be expected to accept. Dayton's strong fan base makes the Flyers a likely target, too.

If the league gets above 10 schools, St. Louis is likely to be invited. Richmond may or may not be targeted. VCU also has been discussed. The A-10 also has to worry about Massachusetts defecting.

The A-10 can add more teams, but won't get any of the quality of Butler and VCU.

Where might the new league be headquartered? Villanova's new league, which will stake its claim to the Big East name, could be located anywhere - most likely in the East, possibly even in Philadelphia. It certainly will hope that Madison Square Garden wants to continue hosting the conference tournament.

What does this mean for Temple? Pick up Sunday's paper.


Contact Mike Jensen at mjensen@phillynews.com. Follow @jensenoffcampus on Twitter.

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