The Big East’s seven basketball only schools — St. John’s, Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, Seton Hall, Providence and DePaul — are in the midst of discussing whether or not they should break away from what’s left of their once dominant hoops league.
What will they do from there?
Dissolve the Big East (they would need a two-thirds vote for that to happen, something that seems impossible now that Temple is a voting member) and start a new league? Bring in the likes of George Mason and Creighton?
Or will they join forces with the Atlantic 10 to form a 21 team league?
Or maybe they’ll continue trying to develop a national basketball conference, folding in the likes of Gonzaga and St. Mary’s?
At this point, that decision is a ways down the road. The first question that needs to be answered is whether or not it makes sense for them to leave in the first place. The Big East is trying to lock down a new TV deal, and a recent report from CBSSports.com stated that the league was expected to get between $60-80 million for their rights. That breaks down to somewhere between $1 and $1.5 million for the Big East’s hoop schools. By comparison, the Atlantic 10’s TV deal earns each member institution about $350,000.
Will the Big East’s Catholic school be able to generate much more than that?
Think about it. St. John’s hasn’t been relevant nationally since the days of Ron Artest, Erick Barkley and Felipe Lopez. Providence has been to two NCAA tournaments since 1997 and none since 2004. Seton Hall has been to three tournaments since 1994. DePaul has been to two since 1992. Villanova, Georgetown and Marquette are all quality programs with good head coaches, but how does maintaining an associated with the other four programs help them when it means turning their back on a conference that also includes Cincinnati, UConn, Memphis and Temple?
Is Tulane really that much worse than Fordham?
Is it about saving a brand that all-but went out the door with the likes of Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia? Is it about maintaining a level of pride; saving face? Is salvaging what little respect the league has left worth upwards of seven figures annually?
The bottom-line is this: the Big East’s basketball schools are screwed, no matter how you slice it. There is no good answer here. So they are left with a choice: try to remain aligned with a conference that still generates football revenue, or go it alone and risk sliding even further off the national radar.
And if they can make more money in a new league, they’ll make the leap. If not, they’ll stay.
Once you get past the romanticized soap opera that is realignment, it really is that simple.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.