Jim Calhoun doesn’t want to leave the Big East.
That’s at least what he said at UConn’s media day Wednesday afternoon.
“My thing is that I’m never, ever, to this day, never, ever will be anti-Big East,” Calhoun said. “I’m pro-Big East and I hope that things can be worked out in the Big East. But, if they can’t be, and we can find a better place for ourselves, then we would do that.”
I don’t blame him. He is one of the guys that has built that conference from an idea that Dave Gavitt (RIP) had back in the late 70’s into the most powerful basketball conference in the country. Why would Calhoun want to leave that? Why would he want the Big East to break-up? The opportunity he got with UConn joining the Big East is the reason he’s a Hall of Famer and a legend our sport. But Jim Boeheim didn’t want to leave the Big East, either. How did that turn out for him?
But — and Calhoun acknowledged this in his comment — UConn needs out. The Big East is dying. Everyone knows that. Things have gotten so bad that the league is trying to seduce programs from West Texas, Colorado and Idaho to join to bolster their football product. Its so bad that UCF, who has been openly pining (well, at least Mike Bianchi has) for an invite to play alongside South Florida in a BCS conference, may not accept an invitation if one comes their way. There is a $7 million buyout to leave Conference USA. Why would the Golden Knights pay that much money to join a league that is crumbling? All it would take in Missouri accepting the SEC’s invite and Louisville and West Virginia to jump to the Big 12 to put an end to the Big East. There is a strong possibility that happens. Would you still buy a ticket for the Titanic if you knew it was going to sink?
Just as interesting as Calhoun’s quote is what Mike Krzyzewski had to say yesterday.
“I think you have to continue to explore” expansion questions, Krzyzewski said. “Is 14 the right number? Will 16 be? I don’t know if I’m in the minority, majority – I don’t talk to anybody about this – but (it) seems to me that if you’re going to go 14, then you should go 16.”
“You’ve always got to maintain your brand of a conference and not get caught up with, ‘Oh, what about my rivalry with this one school?’ Although we should always have the rivalry with Duke and (North) Carolina. Don’t get me wrong on that. But when you’re expanding, you’ve got to develop rivalries with everybody.”
Does that mean that he wants UConn? Or Notre Dame’s non-football playing schools? And why is 16 so much better than 14? Its not like it will make it any easier to figure out a way to keep rivalries intact while having schools make sure to play every team in the conference at least once.
The funny thing about all of this?
What these two coaches think — regardless of how influential they are in the sport — means absolutely nothing. This is a decision made by the administrators based on football money. Calhoun wishing the Big East stays together is like me wishing that it stops raining.
If it happens, it happens. But I don’t have any control over it.
I just have to make sure I have an umbrella.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.