Not to over-dramatize things but the Big East spring meetings that begin Monday in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida and run through Wednesday might be among the most important in league history. ESPN.com Big East blogger Andrea Adelson runs through those issues that could have the biggest impact on the conference's future, both in the near term and down the road.
The biggest, without question: conference stability. It's one of the reasons Big East commissioner John Marinatto resigned, it's also why Texas Christian opted for the Big 12 over the Big East, and why there was such a mad scramble to add members in the wake of announced departures by Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia. Upside: Boise State has reaffirmed its commitment to joining the conference in a football-only capacity.
But as Adelson points out, over the long haul, the conference needs to know it has the support (and more importantly, commitment) of its big-name programs. "But beyond Boise State and the non-AQ schools joining, the Big East needs to know that all its member schools are committed so it can move forward in a meaningful way. That goes for teams like Louisville, UConn and Rutgers to name three."
Other big-ticket issues: finding Marinatto's successor, as well as negotiating the next Big East television contract. With the latter set to begin in September, there isn't much time to decide on the former.
"The Big East has to get an excellent TV deal," Adelson wrote Monday. "First and foremost, it needs to be in the same ballpark as the deal that it turned down last year; and it is going to have to be in the same ballpark as the ACC to really be able to move forward. How will the Big East negotiate, which TV partners are interested, and will this finally lend stability to the league?"
More than that, this television deal will determine, in no small part, recruiting for many of the mid-tier Big East football schools like, for example, UConn. We can talk all we want about AQ status, but the reality is this: the Big East, in general, will never compete with the SECs, Big 12s, and even Pac 10s of the college football world. Not in the next few years, anyway. For a sea change to take place, several programs are going to have to gain national prominence, maintain it for some time, and go from there. It's nice that the Huskies played in a BCS bowl game two years ago, but no one outside of Storrs remembers that. This isn't to downplay what Paul Pasqualoni's trying to do with the UConn program, but to point at the realities facing many of the schools in the Big East when the conversation turns to things like television contracts (or more generally, money).
Adelson also notes that the precarious BCS/playoff situations, as well as divisional alignment will also be on this week's to-do list in Florida. Ultimately, however, it will come down to this (and it's almost always this): winning football games.