Does anyone remember the start of the millennium? When C-USA was really good at basketball? Memphis, Louisville, Cinci, Marquette — heck even DePaul was tough — and some of those battles in the C-USA Tournament? No? Yes? Maybe? This?
There really were some great games. Huge drama.
Now? Not so much. Outside of those in the respective fan bases that remember those days, and some big college basketball wonks. Think Louisville or Cinci gets much respect for claiming C-USA Championships these days? Not when everyone looks at the present — and future — C-USA and see the level of competition.
That’s where the Big East appeared to already be headed, but now the Big East Basketball schools are thinking about accelerating the process.
In what could be the first step towards the collapse of the Big East football/basketball structure, officials of the 7 non-football playing Big East basketball schools held a meeting in New York on Sunday to discuss breaking off on their own. According to sources familiar with the talks, the conference included not only athletic directors, but Presidents and Big East commissioner Mike Aresco as well.
A time frame of six months was set up to make a decision whether to break off on their own or continue to stay within the frame work of a conference whose configuration has changed steadily over the last several months. That time frame may be predicated on the nature of a new television football/basketball contract the Big East is currently trying to put together.
Why such a short time-frame to make a decision? Because that is about how long their window is to control the Big East as far as dissolving it rather than dealing with exit fees (probably).
At issue is whether the Big East basketball-only schools have the power to dissolve the league, and retain all the assets and brand name. A source with knowledge of the situation said that until July 1, the seven have the majority votes and the necessary three-fourths to have controlling power. There are only three remaining football members — Connecticut, Cincinnati and South Florida.
But a number of sources couldn’t confirm whether Temple, which is a football-only member this season, has a controlling vote. One Big East source said Temple has a vote on football issues but wasn’t sure whether the Owls could use that vote for membership. If the Owls could, Temple likely would be the fourth vote preventing any dissolving of the league.
That has to be fun for Cinci and UConn. Trying to hold the conference together while simultaneously begging to get out of it. It does make some sense for the Big East Basketball schools to examine their options — however dim the odds are of them being able to make a decision within six months.
Hilariously (or sadly) the tipping point was not that the early estimates for the TV contract were coming in far, far lower than anyone expected.
Last week, CBSSports.com reported the Big East’s media rights deal is expected to bring between $60 million and $80 million, which would actually provide the basketball schools less revenue than the current deal. Based on those figures, the basketball schools would earn only $1.06 million (based on the $60 million estimate) or $1.41 million (based on the $80 million estimate). They currently annually receive $1.5 million from the league’s media rights deal.
No, the tipping point was letting Tulane in the conference.
“The basketball schools are not thrilled with Tulane and what they will do to the league’s RPI,” said a league source from a football-playing member. “They were not all that excited with that addition.”
The source added that “the basketball schools would have fallen off the ledge if we would have added East Carolina as a full member and what that would have done to the basketball league.”
Which in a microcosm explains the problem with the Big East basketball schools and the conference. They had problems with adding Tulane, but didn’t scuttle. They didn’t delay it while they had their questions answered. Instead they grumbled, voted yes, and realized they screwed up after the fact.
At least Pitt and some of the other football schools had the sense to stop the Villanova plan to move up to 1-A football before voting for it.
I really don’t want to see the Big East destroyed. I’m glad Pitt is out. Yet destroying the conference also means destroying a lot of the history of which Pitt was a part.
Selfishly, it means the accomplishment of that first Big East Tournament Championship in 2003 and the one in 2008 get diminished. Not to mention the achievement of being in the Championship game seven times in an eight year stretch. Just as NIT titles of the past are now considered minor because of the NIT of the present.
People don’t look at those achievements with the knowledge of who was in the conference. They just look at how the conference presently looks. That’s why the C-USA titles from the 90s and early 2000s hardly have the same cache. At least, not without some “30 for 30” documentary in 2025.
Its a small thing. And yes, Pitt leaving for the ACC plays a significant role in why those Big East titles will looks smaller in the future. So Pitt is no victim of this. Just one more bit of collateral damage in the expansiopocolypse