The seven Catholic, basketball-only schools within the Big East recently announced they’ll be breaking away from the league in the future, and on Monday, one of those coaches spoke his piece about it.
Providence’s Ed Cooley, currently in his second season as Friars head coach, gave his opinion of the move to Chip Brown on Sirius XM’s College Sports Nation. Needless to say, Cooley is like many of the coaches that are involved in this mass exodus from the Big East. He agrees something had to be done.
The Friars are currently 7-2 and are expected to contend in the Big East.
“I’m not privy to a lot of those conversations; that’s at a different level. The preliminary conversations I’ve had with [PC President] Father Shanley and [athletic director] Bob Driscoll, was, they’ve seen the landscape change years ago. And when you look at, just recently, with Rutgers leaving, then Louisville leaving, I think enough was enough. It’s unfortunate, as I said earlier today, that football has dominated the landscape of college athletics and, I mean, there’s a lot of reasons for it. And because we’re a basketball only school as far as the elite high level, I’m pretty sure our presidents got together and said, ‘Let’s go in a different direction.’ The Big East was changing every single day. There were nontraditional schools being invited and I’m pretty sure it just wasn’t in the best interests of them all. But we’re excited. We’re real excited about the direction. I don’t know what’s going to happen from here, I just know it’s going in a different direction. And Providence College has solidified itself as far as what we’re doing to be a powerful player in whatever league we’re going to be in.”
So, Cooley’s happy. I don’t have a problem with that. And also, kudos to him for recognizing, for better or worse, that football is king in this discussion. It’s just a fact some coaches have a hard time grasping. He continued.
“We’ve been a proud, proud member of the Big East, being one of the original schools. And we’ll miss that. We’ll miss the challenges of Connecticut, Syracuse, we’ve had some great battles with them through the years. But I think everybody has to be realistic with the changing culture of athletics. If you don’t change you are going to get left behind. And whatever new rivalries will come up, we’ll embrace those. I know our fan base is excited about it [and] our alumni are excited about it and we’re going to try to do the best we can.”
This is one of the more genuine statements I’ve heard from a coach regarding this situation. Cooley recognizes the past, but knows the times change. The collegiate landscape isn’t the same as it was 10, 15, 20 years ago. We all hurt when we see things we love end or become altered, and we can either, in this case, fight a losing battle to stay together or move on and try to improve. Cooley recognizes the seven non-Football Bowl Subdivision schools saw that and had to make the move.
I never really had an opinion on the latest round conference realignment. I’ve become numb to it. Tell me when it’s over. But this is inevitable. Good that Cooley and the other schools are helping themselves instead of trying to funnel water out of a sinking ship.
David Harten is a sportswriter and college basketball blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.