First day of the rest of our lives: Louisville caps legendary league, now let's roll

USA TODAY Sports

Peyton Siva and Louisville sent the Old Big East out in grand fashion.

It was a great league. If no one ever touched it, we would have lived peacefully.

We would have been just fine growing old with the traditions of Eastern basketball, longtime rivalries, and stories of college basketball's Golden Age.

When Louisville's NCAA championship win over Michigan became reality on Monday, it finally hit me. Big East basketball as I know it - as we know it - ended. Abruptly, just like that.

It's been in the works for a long while now. We get it. The so-called 'Catholic 7' officially left the existing league four months ago, but the crumbling began well before that.

On Monday night in Atlanta, the Big East that you and perhaps your dad grew up with was taken off life support.

As the Georgia Dome switched the lights - long after the 75,000 fans left, long after Rick Pitino's Cardinals' celebration concluded - there too went the gasping, flickering bulb that John Marinatto and the league's presidents unscrewed and threw against a brick wall in the search for bigger paydays and supposed self-preservation.

You know what I should be doing? I ought to be using this space to talk about how great the game itself was. Louisville and its worthy competitor Wolverines gave college basketball fans exactly what they needed on the sport's final night before next November.

But I won't. I'll use it to convey my inevitable, and maybe a bit delayed, realization. And I'll look ahead to a future that will bear the same name and perhaps an even better 34 years.

I sat up thinking about all of those games - all of those unmatched moments. Villanova's 'perfect game.' Ray Allen's favorable roll. Gerry McNamara's running three to sink UConn. Kemba Walker's step back to sink Pittsburgh even deeper. And, selfishly, Dwight Hardy's prayer that highlighted St. John's rejuvenating season two years ago.

The list rolls on, and on....and on. I could have been reminiscing the great Duke/North Carolina thrillers. Or even George Mason's run to the Final Four (although we all did love that). Yet I wasn't, because those aren't the teams that shaped my basketball upbringing. They won't be the teams, the games, and the moments that I'll miss.

When the Johnnies and the other teams that once flew the Big East banner high in the rafters kick off the 2013-14 season, things will be different. I'm not saying things will be worse, and I'm not necessarily saying things will be better (I'm confident, are you?). "Different" is the only certainty.

Butler, Xavier, and Creighton are joining forces with Georgetown, Villanova, St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall, Marquette, and DePaul. No Syracuse and no UConn, No Rutgers or Notre Dame. No newer Big East teams, Louisville, Cincinnati, or South Florida.

For St. John's, Georgetown, Seton Hall, and the rest, the focus shifts back to the league's roots, the roots that grew from the seeds planted by legendary commissioner Dave Gavitt over three decades ago. Now, the programs in place remind many of the Big East of 1979. Hopefully it will be as awesome as it sounds.

That old adage "with every ending brings new beginning" couldn't apply more than it does now. When Louisville walked (or climbed) off the (elevated) court at the Georgia Dome, the Big East that won the men's title and will claim the women's title on Tuesday night passes the torch to what looks like the same league... but isn't.

As Mark Blaudschun mentioned earlier on Tuesday in his blog, it's time for the new Big East to pick a leader, determine a structure, write down bylaws and rules, and pick officials - all of the fine details that are the reasons conferences exist in the first place. The longer the Big East waits to become operational, the more difficult it will be to iron out kinks and get the schools familiar with the new nuances before the fall sports (soccer, cross-country) start their seasons.

Blaudschun and many others recommend that the league brings Gavitt's son, Dan, aboard to serve as commissioner of the new and old Big East. A Gavitt worked out quite well the first time around, right?

It's an interesting feeling, not having the old Big East to fall back on. But this new league will have the competition, it will have Madison Square Garden, and it will have a healthy combination of old and new blood.

"I'm aware, having grown up in a basketball family, what St. John's and Madison Square Garden mean in terms of northeast basketball," Steve Lavin said. "I know that this is special. I am grateful to have been in a part of these last couple years coaching in the Big East as we know it, before the change to the new Big East."

Pitino and his impressive Cardinals squad gave Big East traditionalists one last hurrah. It was only fitting that the league went out on top - the way it always was.

Yet for the first time, that Big East is in the past and the new one is in the present. The structure has fallen and it's finally time to break ground.

It's the first day of the rest of our lives. Let's roll.

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