The Future of the Big East

Susan Herbst_on tuition hike

UConn might be one of the biggest losers in the latest development in the Big East -- that the seven non-football playing Catholic schools (Villanova, Georgetown, St. John's, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall and DePaul) -- have decided to leave the conference. The basketball team has to convince recruits that everything's fine even though their conference-wide upheaval and the coach, Kevin Ollie, will have his contract expire in the spring.

But all this conference reshuffling was supposed to be about football anyway. And somehow, the Huskies' football program could come out of this worse than it went in. Now it's the equivalent of rats fleeing a sinking ship because, well, the ship is sinking. Unlike Syracuse and Pitt and Louisville, the UConns and Cincinnatis of the football-playing world weren't on anyone's short list, which meant that they were stuck with the Big East. Big East blogger Andrea Adelson wrote about what it all means over the weekend:

No matter who is left, or what television deal is reached, or who else is invited in, the Big East cannot do a thing to keep a school from leaving for a better conference. Note the statement from Cincinnati athletic director Whit Babcock, whose school desperately tried to get into the ACC last month -- even asking Ohio State coach Urban Meyer to try and put in a good word.

Babcock never once mentioned the Big East. Do you know what UC is committed to? "Competing at the highest level," the statement says. Cincinnati is not the only remaining school that has a wayward eye, either. UConn made overtures to the ACC both last year and this year, believing it was the next school in once Maryland left for the Big Ten. Instead, Louisville got the life raft out.

At this point, each remaining school has to make itself look attractive enough for somebody else. The Big East already has lost its seat at the equality table in the future playoff system. It is set to lose millions upon millions in revenue. Its biggest national football brand -- Boise State -- has not even played a down in the league, and yet, is perhaps the most valuable piece that cannot be lost in the next several months.

The Big East is approaching rock bottom and there's not a lot UConn can do about it. Basketball and football will undoubtedly be affected -- top-flight recruits aren't going to a program stuck in second-tier conference. The only shining star is the women's basketball team but that's what seven national titles and annual trips to the Final Four will provide you. For the money-making endeavors -- and that's basically football -- the Huskies need a Plan B and quick.

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