Shortly after Pitt and Syracuse announced they were leaving the Big East for the ACC, and with rumors swirling that UConn might follow at some point in the future, Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino made his thoughts clear on the matter. Specifically, he said it would be the "dumbest thing" he's ever heard. (Given that he once said this, we find that hard to believe.)
Now, three weeks later, and Pitino has more thoughts on Big East realignment.
"This was a basketball move taking Pittsburgh and Syracuse, it was not a football move," he said Wednesday at Big East media days. "They (ACC) wanted to get back to what we remember, 15-20 years ago, growing up a college basketball fan, the ACC was dominant. They don't like the fact that the Big East has been the premier basketball conference," he said.
Interesting. Pitino, by the way, is the only person … well, anywhere championing the "this is about basketball not football" theory of conference reshuffling. That said, perhaps the ACC, in addition to making gobs of money that comes with big-time college football, also want to return to their glory days. (Of course, if they were truly serious about that, they'd go back to an eight-team conference but with the financial implications we all know that's not happening.)
The Louisville coach made an important point when talking about Boston College's decision to leave the Big East for the ACC in 2005.
"I have great admiration for the abilities of Gene DeFilippo as an AD, we worked together at Kentucky," Pitino said. "But since [BC] joined the ACC they have won one championship, soccer in 2005. Since we've joined the Big East, we're second behind Notre Dame with 40.
"We can get $2 million more a year by joining the ACC. BC, with an endowment probably close to $1 billion, is going to worry about a $2 million move? What about the fact they've one championship? I'd rather win 30-40, be very successful than have $2 million in my pocket. I learned that a long time ago when I was with the Boston Celtics. I had a lot of money but I wasn't too happy."
Pitino continued, this time with jokes (!):
"Syracuse is playing Clemson tonight on TV!" he said in mock excitement. "It's not Syracuse-Georgetown. Syracuse will play Florida State tonight! N.C. State! Wake Forest!" ...]
"My problem is not them leaving," he said. "My problem is you did it in 48 hours. Don't run away with a girl after one date when you've been dating someone else for three or four years. You've been dating this woman for 30 years, show a little respect."
It's an awkward analogy but it's also the same lament of everyone opposed to the move (which seems like everyone but the university presidents and conference heads counting the money). And while Pitino has spoken his piece, we're guessing it won't change anything. Even if he may be onto something.