Dear Big East,Now that basketball is finished, we can now focus on spring football...and the giant purple elephant in the room.
Tony Barnhart, a well respected sportswriter who primarily covers the SEC, was in Indy this week for the NCAA's. During his trip, he got to talking with various people all closely related to both college football and the Big Ten conference [article]. And while the game between Duke and Butler was the reason all these people were together, it was not, as Tony reports, the biggest story in the room.
The NCAA's impending decision to expand the tourney from 65 to 96 teams was all the rage this year according to Barnhart. All those close to this news say it's basically a done deal. Turns out, the NCAA likes money. But that doesn't even come close to how big of an impact the other main topic of conversation could drastically impact college sports as we know it.
You may recall my last couple of posts from earlier this year detailing who I thought would be prime candidates for expansion should the Big Ten decide to grow to what I assumed would be a relatively large, but do-able 14 team conference. [Part 1] [Part 2].
According to Barnhart, he spoke with conference commissioners and athletic directors who all were pretty much convinced that the Big Ten is positioning for a big move. He said, one of three outcomes is inevitable:
1. The Big Ten does nothing and stays with 11 teams. (Unlikely)
2. The Big Ten adds 1 team to go to 12. (Notre Dame...if not them, then not worth it)
3. They go for broke and add 5 teams to create a dominating super conference that would impact just about every other conference in the nation.
"If they go to 16 and one of them is Notre Dame then we’ve got an entirely new ball game," according to an unnamed conference commissioner who spoke with Barnhart.
If the Big Ten makes a move like this, it's over for the Big East. Rutgers, Syracuse, Connecticut and Pitt would all be likely entrees for Big Ten dinner. And if that happens, what's left of the Big East (West Virginia Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida) would probably end up with the ACC and/or the SEC.
Barnhart believes the schools that enjoy a Big East affiliation for basketball (Georgetown, Villanova, St. John’s, Marquette, Seton Hall, DePaul, Providence) to basically form a catholic basketball conference. Whether of Notre Dame joins them is a whole other issue.
But if the Big Ten gets this 16 team deal done, it's on for other conferences.
The SEC, in a panic gets on the phone to Miami and Florida State to lure them from the ACC. The ACC calls every mid-major school in the eastern time zone. Texas gets calls from all over. The WAC gets pillaged by the Pac-10. The Big 12 is the wild-card. They could either lure some mid-majors and hopefully keep Texas and A&M, or be picked apart by the SEC and Pac-10. And all of the sudden, you have 4, maybe 5 mega-conferences...the Big Ten, ACC, SEC, Pac-10 and maybe the Big 12. Whats left in the wake is a demolished Big East, a shattered WAC, and maybe a slightly dented MAC and/or Conference-USA.
Or, the Big Ten just adds the Irish and we all go about our happy little lives and everyone goes home.
Just wait and see. It won't be long now.