Basketball coach Jim Calhoun has sometimes been described as cantankerous, although it might be more accurate to say that he doesn't suffer fools well and he speaks his mind. However you label it, the man's no wallflower. And neither is Big East (for now) counterpart, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, who will be aboard the two-team convoy (along with Pitt) headed to the ACC.
There has been much gnashing of teeth, both inside the Big East and elsewhere at the thought of what all this conference-hopping means for the future of college athletics. And let there be no confusion; the concern isn't that college sports will cease to exist as we know them, but that somebody somewhere won't be making as much money as they once were.
Either way, things are changing. If you're Pitt or Syracuse (or a current member of the ACC), it's for the better; if you're the other Big East schools (including UConn, which might not be long for the Big East), it's for the worse.
And it's the changing landscape of college basketball that prompted Syracuse to bolt in the first place. Boeheim appeared on 1260 The Score to explain how this all went down and why (via SportsRadioInterviews.com):
"I think one thing you have to understand about this move is that we are not leaving the Big East that we were founding fathers for," Boeheim said. "The 9-10 team league where everyone was in the same geographical area. I would be upset if we left that. We wouldn’t have left that conference, but because of football … this isn’t something new. (Former Big East Commissioner) Mike Tranghese is talking about, well football is thriving. Football has driven all the expansions that we have had. The Big East reign … I mean Mike Tranghese is a good friend of mine, but he must have forgotten we raided the Atlantic 10 for West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Villanova then we raided the Conference USA for Louisville, for Cincinnati, and Marquette.
"This is nothing new in college athletics. This has been going on for 50 years. Conferences grow and change and adapt to what happens. This is nothing new, but we are not leaving that 9-10 team…we are leaving the 17-team Big East Conference that is going to include a team from Texas and Florida and Chicago and Wisconsin and Kentucky. We’re not leaving what we founded. We are leaving something completely different and it’s obviously unstable and a couple of people criticizing this are people that could have saved the Big East. If Notre Dame wanted to save the Big East they could have joined The Big East in 2004 and we wouldn’t be having these discussions today, but they didn’t want to. Then they voted against the TV package. Without the TV package there is a lot of instability there.”
It's hard to argue with any of that, and Boeheim's spot on when he points out that Big East has previously raided other conferences in the past to its benefit.
In a sense, these colleges and universities are multi-million dollar corporations. And just like in the real world, they're looking to make money. Which explains the decision by Pitt and Syracuse to leave. And it's only a matter of time before UConn follows them out the door.