The made for reality-TV devolution of Big East basketball continued last night with a report that the Big East basketball schools met to discuss the future of the Big East conference in light of the newest additions. The Athletic Directors and Presidents of the seven non-FBS-football schools (St. John's/ Georgetown/ Villanova/ Providence/ Marquette/ DePaul/ Seton Hall) met on Sunday with Commissioner Mike Aresco.
The idea of dissolving the conference was discussed, but isn't imminent, despite what headlines may say. Dissolution is on the table, but would be an expensive proposition - as previously discussed in this space. Would the Big East keep the future payments due the league from NCAA Tournament appearances? Would the league be able to retain the name, the league's other assets?
Put succinctly by Andy Katz on ESPN,
The problem for the Catholic seven would be that if they were to venture off without taking the assets and brand name, they would forfeit all the NCAA tournament revenue from the conference and would be left without any start-up to form a new conference.
An interesting note is that "sources" are unsure if Temple can vote on membership/ dissolution, being a football-only member until next year. Also from that article - Madison Square Garden feels it can get out of the contract for the Big East conference championship if the league membership continues to change.
The decision whether to dissolve or not won't be taken lightly, despite the focus on the perceived lack of quality of the future league and the change in focus.
Fans are excited by the idea of moving on from a Big East with lower-tier basketball schools coming in, that stretches geographically from sea to shining sea.
But the alternative of an eastern version of the West Coast Conference (a small league of private schools playing in small gyms) or a jacked-up Atlantic 10 will bring in even less media right revenue than the watered-down Big East will bring the hoops schools, at least based on recent figures.
Gary Parrish of CBS Sports disagrees.
How much TV revenue could a league like that generate?
The answer is unclear.
But it probably wouldn't be significantly less than the roughly $1 million per year Dodd's report suggests the non-football members might get from the deal Aresco is currently trying to negotiate, and, just as important, a new basketball-only league wouldn't force schools like Georgetown and Marquette to water-down their schedules and blow their budgets playing against and traveling to schools like Tulane and Houston.
As far as quality of schedule, it's important to note that many schools have made improvements in basketball over time - and a number of the incoming schools have shown a dedication to being competitive in the future. Southern Methodist brought in Larry Brown (with a succession plan) and are doing well, Memphis is competitive, Temple is solid, Houston has some talent. (Tulane is, and likely will continue to be, a dog.)
Whether in the Big East as it will be constituted or in a version of the Atlantic Ten, Big East schools will need to boost their non-conference schedules to gain attention and maintain a high RPI for tournament consideration. St. John's, for example, will need to find ways to bring major draws to Madison Square Garden - possibly including schools that have left the conference but have been major draws in New York City.
Not much changes with the dissolution of the league, except the maintenance of familiar matchups and the likely loss of money.
Are familiar foes worth bringing in less money? Is twice a year of Villanova, Georgetown, Seton Hall worth the loss of money and the legal wrangling? Can those matchups invigorate the Garden and the fanbases of programs who have not been filling the seats recently?
Is it better to join the Atlantic 10 (Ill answer that one. No, it's not.) or to start a new conference with selected A-10 members?
The basketball schools have until the new all-sports members arrive on July 1st to make their decision; after that point, the schools will not have the voting power to dissolve the Big East without the new members' agreement.