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Big East Might Split Apart

The non-football playing members of the Big East had a meeting about potentially breaking up the conference.

Stacy Revere

No conference has been more emblematic of the problems of conference realignment than the Big East. It could potentially become the second casualty of conference realignment, after the WAC as a football league, according to a report by Mark Blaudschun:

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.

ESPN and CBS later confirmed the report. The hangup seems to be a combination of discontent over the new additions, particularly Tulane, and the expected dud of a TV contract. The new schools really water down the basketball league, and the contract isn't going to be much of a raise if anything over the current deal due to the departures Pitt, Syracuse, Louisville, and Rutgers. Providence, for instance, isn't going to want to have to travel to Texas to play Houston and SMU regularly if its not going to get a lot more TV money to compensate. The idea is that those basketball-only schools might hook up with the cream of the Atlantic 10 (e.g. Xavier, Butler, Dayton, etc.) to form a more localized league.

The Big East has always been kind of an odd duck in today's structure. Football is king, but it is a conference that originally came about in 1979 to unite east coast basketball powers. It didn't begin sponsoring football until 1991. It wasn't able to fully stabilize itself after the ACC raid in 2003, and it's falling from the ranks of the power conferences officially when the playoff comes in 2014.

Schools like Boston College, West Virginia, Pitt, and Syracuse were the glue holding the two halves of the conference together because they contributed to both revenue sports. They raised basketball value for schools like Georgetown, Villanova, and St. John's, and they raised football value for Miami and Virginia Tech. Those two football powers left, weakening the football side of the equation and giving the glue schools reasons to look elsewhere. Now with most of the adhesive gone, it's a completely unstable construct.

The seven Catholic schools thinking about splitting off would be forfeiting some amount of television money by doing so. If all they stand to get by staying in the Big East is about $1 million per year anyway, expenses from the larger geographic footprint might make the splinter league a better deal financially. This move by these schools is a very real possibility.