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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Power Play

--or-- Why the Big East May Be Doomed

I'm a Sixers fan. This past off-season, I watched in near-disbelief as the entire East made moves to improve their fortune. The Cavaliers added Shaq. The Celtics added Rasheed Wallace. The Magic added Vince Carter. With that, three of the strongest teams in the division made power plays to get even stronger. And the Sixers sat by and did nothing.

Now, as a Big East fan, I'm sitting by and watching my conference do the same thing.

Unless Marinatto is just playing his cards extremely close to the vest, I've got no reason to believe that the Big East is doing anything more than letting things play out as they may with respect to conference expansion and realignment. Trouble is, the could play out to playing the Big East out of existence. Meanwhile, other conferences are attempting to make power plays. The Big Ten's power play is setting this whole thing in motion. The SEC is a power play unto itself, and even with that is keeping a watchful eye on the landscape. The Big XII and Pac-10 are exploring the concept of a joint television network. The ACC is inking a major deal with ESPN that seeks to double revenues for conference schools. And the Big East? Sitting still, from where I sit.

Better minds than mine may have ideas on what they should be doing, but my priority points would be issuing an ultimatum (go all in or get out) to Notre Dame, extending a bid to TCU and/or others, and discussing a plan to amicably cleave BE basketball and football so expansion were possible without creating an unwieldy basketball conference.

Other than inaction, another reason the Big East is possibly doomed is geography. Despite the Big Ten's potential desire to change this fact by reaching east (or south with early Texas talks), the Big Six conferences as we currently know them are all regional conferences.

The Pac-10 is a Western conference.
The Big XII is a Heartland conference.
The Big Ten is a Midwestern conference.
The SEC is a Southern conference.
The ACC is an Eastern conference.

And the Big East? ...is an Eastern conference. What this means is that when it comes right down to it, the Big East has to battle the ACC for regional supremacy, and it already seems the ACC is set up for victory. In fact, it was the ACC's expansion in 2005 that truly made the ACC an Eastern conference and not simply a low-res clone of the SEC. Adding Boston College (and, interestingly enough, Miami) is what stopped the ACC from being a Southern conference with Maryland as an outlier and made them moreso an entity of the East Coast. So yes, the ACC and Big East have gone toe-to-toe once before, and things didn't turn out so well for the BE.

That said, it's actually not the ACC, but the Big Ten who threatens the Big East this time. With no desire to stay in their lane, the Big Ten may look to snatch Eastern schools as it goes. As the Big East is already the smallest football conference, even the nabbing of one or two teams could prove fatal. At best, the Big East could hope for an Eastern merger. But one thing's for sure: If that happens, the new conference will likely look a whole lot more like the ACC than it does the Big East.
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