December 11, 2012

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?

Any bells?

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, 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

Glad PITT is off to the ACC but it is truly a sad day for the BIG EAST. There was nothing and will never be anything like the old BIG EAST of the 1980’s. Basketball was KING.
RIP Big East.

Comment by Pitt Fan In Atlanta 12.11.12 @ 10:20 pm

Emel you are spot on in discussing the basketball brand of the Big East Catholic schools. I know most of us disliked the configuration of the Big East with the baskeball only schools, but the Big East brand was built on basketball and the basketball only schools were instrumental especially in the early years of the Big East. I know alot of you are probably too young, but as good as the Big East was in the past decade I think it was better in the early to late eighties. I remember when the Big East had 3 teams in the final four. The pivotal teams back then were Georgetown, St. John’s, Villanova and Syracuse (three basketball only schools). Pitt also had some very good teams. The Pitt team led by Charles Smith, Jerome Lane, Demetrious Gore and Curtis Aiken would have handled any of the good Pitt teams of recent years.

Comment by Floyd 12.11.12 @ 10:32 pm

lol VilliManilli

Comment by panther94 12.11.12 @ 10:54 pm

Saw something interesting on ESPN tonight, during some sportscenter thing.

Had a chart up on the college football coaching carousel. About 20 teams, who they lost, who they’re getting etc. etc. etc.


Comment by Dan 12.11.12 @ 11:49 pm

@Dan, I’ll drink to that. Any word on who Wisconsin is pursuing?

Comment by panther94 12.11.12 @ 11:56 pm

Actually, they did mention Wisconsin, but, by the time I got in the room, the guy was saying,

“so those couple guys will not be on Wisconsins radar”. LOL

I did hear them say, Tennessee seems to be the big winner with the guy from Cincy.

Also, had Petrion on, taking the job at W.Kentucky.

He’s very sad, apologized to everyone, and said he’s a “changed man”. LMAO.

The AD was pretty forthright. We got him to continue our progress upwards, and to help get some recruits.

As for his past, the guy actually said, “he has sold me at the present, I guess time will tell”. LOL

Comment by Dan 12.12.12 @ 12:21 am

Hopefully the demise of the Big East opens the door for an ACC championship in the Garden. Nothing beats NYC for venue.

Comment by Jeff in CPa 12.12.12 @ 1:13 am

Couldn’t happen to a better conference. Big East was conttived from the very beginning.

If memory serves me correct, it’s not Paterno but a bit of Pitt arrogance that lead to the formation of the Big East in lieu of a true EASTERN All SPORTS CONFERENCE that would have included Penn State and Pitt.

Pitt Admin looked down their noses at Penn State Basketball. They wanted everything their way with an everything-but-basketball conference with Penn State, while still taking advantage of the opportunity being presented to place Pitt basketball in a separate elite Big East conference with the other premier New York-centric eastern BB programs.

It wasn’t really Paterno trying to undermine anything Pitt was tryinig to do. In reality he was just trying to do what he thought best for Penn State by attempting to use football as a trump card in an attempt to give instant rise to the status of Penn State basketball.

That’s the way I remember it.

Comment by PittofDreams 12.12.12 @ 7:08 am

By the way Barry Alvarez is on the record saying that he has a specific current Head Coach who he immediately reached out to once Bielema confirmed he was leaving for Arkansas.

And his top choices from his wish list are all current Head Coaches who he believes capable of continuing the same type of run-oriented Offense which has been the tradition at Wisconsin.

Comment by PittofDreams 12.12.12 @ 7:14 am

@Pitt of Dreams.

Concerning BigEast admission of Ped State in early 80’s for basketball(it was only a bb conf at this time). There was a vote taken and they didn’t get the needed votes for admission.
Pitt voted for their admission. They needed 6 of 8 votes, they got 5. Here’s the info:

The Big East was founded in 1979 when Providence, St. John’s, Georgetown, and Syracuse invited Seton Hall, Connecticut, Holy Cross, Rutgers, and Boston College to form a conference primarily focused on basketball, with Rutgers and Holy Cross declining to join.[4] Villanova joined a year later in 1980[5] and Pittsburgh joined in 1982.[6]

In 1982, Penn State applied for membership, but was rejected, with only five schools in favor (Penn State needed six out of eight). It was long rumored that Syracuse cast the deciding vote against Penn State, but Mike Tranghese confirmed that this was not the case and that Syracuse had, in fact, voted for Penn State’s inclusion.[7]

I am not that happy that BigEast basketball might be ending. As it definitely helped propel PITT to national relevance. Although we had a couple years of excellence in the late 80’s, we’ve never had sustained success in basketball until the last 11 years.

Now whether that was the conf. or investing Hundreds of Millions on The Pete is subject to debate. IMO had we not built the Pete, we don’t have the 10 year run to the NCAA’s.

Comment by Emel 12.12.12 @ 1:30 pm

I think a big reason for Pitt’s success over the past decade has been the Howland/Dixon system which was implemented. Their system relies less on superb talent and more on team chemistry with a focus on defense. This style combined with solid coaching and the right type of players has allowed Pitt to be consistently competitive with teams that had better talent. No doubt building the Pete was a factor also as the fans have created a home court advantage which didn’t exist at the Field House.

Comment by Floyd 12.12.12 @ 2:21 pm

I thought thr Field House was equally effective in creating a home court advantage,but because it was such a dump it made it hard to recruit.still it was hard to beat Pitt there.Many times the Big East made us play top games at the Civic Arena which negated our advantage though.

Comment by spiritofsection22 12.12.12 @ 5:41 pm

i wouldn’t be so quick to criticize bball only schools… how about VCU? Butler? in addition to nova, georgetown, etc. from BE.

Comment by nw pa pitt fan 12.12.12 @ 7:16 pm

The Fieldhouse was a great atmosphere. A dump much like Pitt stadium but a more intimate setting. That damn track kept fans too far away. I always loved the fights in the stands that would break out at Pitt stadium however. Didn’t ever see that at the Fieldhouse.

Comment by TX Panther 12.13.12 @ 11:32 am

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