Without action, St. John's may become a mid-major

Stacy Revere

After Louisville announced its move to the ACC, where does it leave St. John's?

How does that famous R.E.M. lyric go? "It's the end of the world as we know it, and..."

You know what, I'll finish it. "...I don't feel fine."

Conference realignment is back in the spotlight, with more fury than ever before. First, it claimed Syracuse and Pittsburgh from the Big East, who announced their move to the ACC last year. Then it was West Virginia to the Big-12 and Notre Dame to the ACC.

But, within the last two weeks, it's back. It's like that gnat you can't find a way to squash, despite spending hours aimlessly clapping into mid-air.

We thought the Big East would be salvageable, with enough football programs to save the existence and financial stability of the league. You can build around Louisville, Connecticut, Cincinnati, USF, Rutgers, and eventually Temple, Memphis, Boise State, San Diego St, Central Florida, SMU, and Navy.

Things change quickly, don't they? Last week, Rutgers announced that they will flee to the Big Ten. On Wednesday, Louisville confirmed an inevitability and followed suit , though to the ACC.

Well, then. So much for that whole salvaging plan. A new one may be needed - and fast.

For the football side of the Big East, the side that has singlehandedly brought the league's higher-ups to their knees, the tipping point has arrived. But luckily here at the Rumble, we worry about the other side.

The primarily basketball-centric schools - St. John's, Georgetown, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence, Marquette, and DePaul - have a very important decision to make soon.

As the Providence Journal mentioned last week, one more subtraction from the Big East now hands the voting majority to these schools. For those who'd rather bounce than kick, the decision could be to dissolve the conference altogether.

But what would happen if they didn't, if they eventually choose to stick with the status quo?

The Big East announced on Tuesday that both Tulane and East Carolina will join, starting in 2014. I'm sorry, but...what?

The league grabbed Conference USA's best in 2005, and has now gone back in 2012 for a cold, stale second serving.

"The Big East has anticipated the continuing realignment that is reshaping college athletics," commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. "[Our league] has already made important additions as part of our vision for the future."

Just months ago, the Big East had considered bringing on East Carolina as a football-only member. That they didn't, and chose other Conference USA members, speaks about the level of interest they had.

Days after losing Rutgers and mere hours before watching Louisville pack the RV for the coast, the Big East admitted its desperation by announcing a Pirate welcoming.

The addition of these programs, along with the others that will join a year earlier in 2013 (Memphis, Southern Methodist, Central Florida, Temple, and Houston), severely dilutes the quality of basketball in the Big East. St. John's, Georgetown, Villanova, and the like can't afford to let things happen this way.

For St. John's, the problems would range further than weakened competition. The Red Storm have welcomed its best opponents - many from its own conference - to Madison Square Garden for decades. St. John's relies on much of its game day revenues from these select games to fund their program's operations.

By replacing Syracuse, Louisville, Notre Dame, and Pittsburgh with Tulane, East Carolina, Houston, and company, the Big East is doing one of its founding members a debilitating disservice.

There is no way that St. John's would ever be able to house games against these Conference USA schools at the Garden, interest wouldn't be able to support them. More home games would move to campus at Carnesecca Arena, opposing Steve Lavin's vision and settling for lesser revenues.

The rest of the current Big East basketball schools, who play many of their home games in NBA or similar-sized venues, would face similar dilemmas.

It may seem that St. John's is helpless in the grand scheme of conference realignment. And, on the largest scale, it is. The answer might no longer be to sit and wait, but to stand and act.

A vote to dissolve the Big East would mean a brighter and more exciting future for St. John's and its allies. A phone call to the Atlantic 10's elite could be the beginnings of a revolutionary basketball-only super-conference.

Or, they can sit back in this sinking ship and watch the waves crash upon them. This ship, the one that so recently was the most dominating of them all, has lost its luster.

It has become a mid-major.

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