Football is gone, off in its own world, chasing all dollars not already accounted for. The Big East Catholic schools decided last year the old arrangement, always uneasy, was untenable, partnering with too many schools with which they had too little in common.
The new Big East was born at the exact moment a new cable system, thirsting for programming, was launched. The marriage between Big East baskets and Fox Sports 1 was providential for the league's relaunch. The 10 conference schools get a much-needed revenue source, the network a familiar and historically successful brand.
Yesterday at Chelsea Piers, hard by the Hudson River just 10 blocks south and a few blocks west of Madison Square Garden, new Big East commissioner Val Ackerman, with a unique basketball résumé as the first 1,000-point scorer in Virginia women's history, an attorney at the NBA, the first president of the WNBA and president of USA Basketball, presided over her first basketball Media Day.
"I haven't worked in college sports, but I know something about basketball," Ackerman said. "The whole idea of taking this venerable brand and re-imagining it. I think we are restoring [the original concept]. It's Big East 3.0.
"It's not the same as it was in 1979. We don't have the same coaches. It's a different network. We're not in Providence anymore."
The league's office, which was in Providence, R.I., will likely be in midtown Manhattan. The tournament is staying at the Garden. More than ever, the Big East wants to be identified with New York.
Villanova's Jay Wright is now the longest-tenured head coach in the league. He was a teenager in Bucks County when it started, a college player at Bucknell, an assistant coach, a head coach.
"What feels the same to me is that it's a basketball conference the way it started," Wright said. "As much as you loved seeing Pitino and Calhoun and Boeheim, you'd see a lot of other schools that you'd just look at, 'What are they doing in the Big East.' "
The last few years and all the uncertainty, Wright said, were very difficult.
"I cared so much about the league from the beginning because I grew up with it," he said. "Over the last 4 or 5 years, watching all the changes, it was killing me. It was really killing me because I felt a responsibility to Villanova and to the history of the Big East. Now that it's all played out, I just really feel great about it because I just feel like this is what we all enjoyed about the beginning.
"Will it be the same? Who knows? Nothing's the same. College basketball is not the same. You know you are going to go into a city. It's going to be a big happening basketball-wise. That school, it's going to be the biggest thing happening athletically for their school. It's going to be basketball junkies."
He is having some issues with that longest-tenured deal.
"I'm not really prepared for that yet," Wright said. "I liked being the younger guy. I'm going to have to work on this role."
Fox made a very sharp hire in its lead announcing team, Big East icons Gus Johnson and Bill Raftery. Longtime fans will feel at home.
"I think it's going to be so much fun," Johnson said. "You're not adding Little Sisters of the Poor . . . These schools just focus on a major sport, which is the game of basketball. Come the middle of the winter when it's cold outside and you don't want to leave your house and you turn on that television and you're deep in the heart of . . . "
It won't be the Carrier Dome. Or the KFC Yum Center. It will be another Creighton sellout (17,390) at the CenturyLink Center, great crowds at Xavier's wonderful Cintas Center and the living history that is Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse.
"Raf" has been there since the beginning when he was the coach at Seton Hall. ESPN was home, but he said it was hard to say no to a chance to call games in the league he has loved for so long.
"I think Dave Gavitt [the original Big East commissioner who came up with the concept of a Northeast basketball league] would be very proud of what they've been able to stabilize," Raftery said. "It's a rebirth, back to basketball. Football is this giant in the room that is unmanageable for a lot of schools that are great athletic programs, this league, the Atlantic 10."
Marquette, which lost to Syracuse in the Elite 8 last season, was picked first in the league, followed by Georgetown, Creighton and Villanova.
Creighton's Doug McDermott was the unanimous preseason player of the year. Vaux High's Rysheed Jordan (St. John's) was selected as rookie of the year.
"When it comes to decision-making, poise, toughness, wow," St. John's coach Steve Lavin said of his freshman star. "And his ability to learn, wow again . . . I can look at this stage of Rysheed's career and compare that to [UCLA players] Cameron Dollar, Tyus Edney, Baron Davis, Earl Watson and Rysheed is ahead of those players in terms of those traits, those attributes, those qualities. His passing is exceptional. Efficiency and economy are words that come to mind."
Villanova's JayVaughn Pinkston and Ryan Arcidiacono were picked on the preseason second team.
"We have six guys returning that played in a lot of big games," Wright said.
With 10 teams, this Big East will be an old-school home-and-home round-robin. Wright pointed out that unbalanced schedule worked in Villanova's favor last season when the Wildcats beat some of the league powers at home and did not have to return the games. This season, over 18 games, everybody will get to find out who's who and what's what.