Changing Big East landscape

A LITTLE OVER 18 months ago, Villanova was prepared to vote on whether to move its football program up a level to FBS and join the Big East for that sport, too.

It never got the chance to decide, mostly because Pittsburgh and Syracuse and maybe even Rutgers wouldn't let them. Sources all agree that Villanova, after a prolonged in-house dialogue/battle, was set to vote yes.

Now, there are a lot of folks on the Main Line who are glad they never got that chance.

Since that April day, the Big East has lost TCU (before it ever played a game) to the Big 12, Pitt and Syracuse to the ACC, West Virginia to the Big 12 and, within the last week, Rutgers to the Big Ten. Now, it's Louisville to the ACC, too.

Will the last one out the door please turn off the lights?

Word is the ACC was also considering Connecticut and Cincinnati, who would have left Wednesday if they had the opening.

There's absolutely nothing the Big East can do about all this except bring in Tulane for everything and East Carolina for football only. Doesn't seem like a fair trade. Yet this is what it has come to. There's already rumors that teams scheduled to come in, like Boise (which was supposed to be the key to keeping it as together/viable as possible going forward), San Diego State and Navy, could reassess their options.

Don't say you weren't warned. A bunch of precincts saw this coming way back when. There's just no real sense of where it ends. It's about haves and have-nots. The Big East is the only one of the six power conferences that will not retain an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game when the format changes to a seven-game, four-team playoff in a couple of years. Instead, it will be lumped with the MAC, Mountain West Conference-USA and Sun Belt for one guranteed spot. Doesn't sound have-ish.

Football, and the television money that goes with it, is what drives everything. And that bottom line doesn't figure to be nearly as lucrative in the upcoming contract negotiations, for obvious reasons. The product just isn't as attractive. But the Big East started more than 3 decades ago as a basketball conference. There are those who contend that if the attrition continues, and UConn in particular is no longer part of the equation, then the hoops schools will elect to break off and even target other b-ball names such as Xavier, Dayton, Butler and St. Louis to join them. Heck, they might even keep the Big East name. It was, after all, theirs to begin with.

If that happens, what's left? It's a shame, because it's nobody's fault. It's just the way the landsape has evolved, in a world where everybody is looking out for their own best interests. But you can only keep putting more fingers in these holes in the dyke for so long.

At some point there's not a whole lot left to preserve.

Wherever this leads, Temple is still better off than it was in the MAC, simply because there was no money there. So whatever it will get now, it will be more. It just won't be what was projected. But the school had no choice. It wanted to get back into the Big East ever since it got kicked out in 2004. So you make the best of it, and hope that maybe someday the ACC wants to be in Philadelphia. Because there is no other alternative.

In the meantime, the reality is you have to embrace playing the likes of SMU, Houston and Central Florida, instead of the recognizable suspects.

Yo, nobody said the new world order was meant to be seismic-free.

 


Email: kernm@phillynews.com