Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Impending Doom of the New Big East

You have to wonder what Georgetown is thinking.

A year ago, its Big East schedule featured games against Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

This year, a potential American Athletic Conference schedule would have featured high-profile games against Top 20 teams in Louisville, UConn and Memphis.

new big east fs1
Instead, Georgetown will have one conference opponent that is ranked in the preseason Top 25 – Marquette.

Why are they doing this again?

The new Big East is set to launch this week and it has received a wave of positive media coverage from the moment Fox Sports made a “blood money” to the Catholic 7. It seemed to appeal to a multitude of factions. The college basketball media has not been able to help itself, heaping praise on a traditional basketball conference that will play a “true” round robin. The ESPN-haters are thrilled to see the competition from Fox Sports 1 taken to another level. And general college basketball fans are excited because there is even more college basketball games on television, as if that was even possible.

The absurdity reached a new level when a writer I thoroughly respect already started outlining the cases for possible expansion candidates. Expansion? The New Big East may want to survive a year or two first.

The league is about to be a failure of epic proportions. No amount of “Onions!” is going to save it. It has maybe a two-year shelf life.

Two things will conspire to eventually destroy it, but I don’t know which will happen first.

The ACC will eventually give up its fairytale of Notre Dame joining for all-sports – you know, football – and give in to its need for an even number of teams by inviting Georgetown. Fox Sports 1 is about to unload a literal mountain of money on Jim Delany’s front doorstep to get the Big Ten TV package. What do you think is more valuable to Fox Sports 1 on a Tuesday night in January – Indiana vs. Michigan or Villanova vs. Creighton?

Much like my piece about Boise State staying with Mountain West Conference, the moral of the new Big East story will be the fallacy of chasing the here and now instead of thinking about the future.

Let’s start with its creation – no one was clamoring for the new Big East. Fans didn’t want it. Players didn’t want it. Administrators didn’t want it. The only group that wanted it was the executives at Fox Sports 1 who faced the daunting task of launching an ESPN competitor without any live sports coverage during the winter.

The only conference up for bid was the old Big East conference – but Fox Sports didn’t need the football side thanks to deals with the Big 12 and the Pac-12. They just needed the basketball. They bought the basketball. In an act of desperation, Fox created a new basketball conference.

So remember that the next time you read a college basketball writer waxing poetically about the tradition of the new Big East – it was created by a television network.

There is also the not so insignificant matter that, historically, the teams involved in the new Big East are painfully mediocre. The much-discussed and much-ballyhooed Catholic 7 have combined for 3 Final Four appearances since 1999 – one less than UConn. The now-adored new Big East teams have combined 2 Championship Game appearances since 1999 – both by Butler, and one less than UConn national titles.

When is the last time St. John’s, Providence, Seton Hall or DePaul mattered? If you can answer that question, you’re probably pretty old. It’s been about 15 years.

The teams that the new Big East added? I mean, where to start? Do we even want to discuss the fate of Butler without Brad Stevens? Xavier hasn’t won an Atlantic-10 tournament title since 2006 while Temple – of the aforementioned American Athletic Conference – has three. Creighton is…well, who cares about Creighton? Doug McDermott is a good story for 2013-14 but you’re looking at a program whose ceiling is a 6 seed.

Yikes.

While Fox Sports is going all out to promote the new Big East, the fact remains that Fox Sports 1 has been its own failure through 2 months. Look at this chart of TV ratings for college football in 2013 and look at the pathetic numbers that the new network has been delivering. And that’s for football! Imagine the test pattern ratings the new Big East will get.

For Fox Sports 1, its most watched game came on October 12 when the power of ESPN Gameday and the undefeated, #2 Oregon Ducks led to an audience of 1.77 million. That was a million less than Alabama’s 48-7 shellacking of overmatched Kentucky on ESPN2 and less than half of the Michigan/Penn State audience at the same time.

The new Big East is about to play their games in a vacuum because no one is going to be paying attention.

Alas, all that Fox has created is a glorified mid-major conference. The ACC, Pac-12, Big 12 and Big 10 are clearly better. The American, especially this year, is miles better – if Memphis & UConn remain annual powers, this won’t change. The SEC is as well, if only due to Kentucky. That’s 6 better than the new Big East. Depending on how the Atlantic-10, Mountain West and West Coast Conference seasons play out, the new Big East could conceivably be the tenth-best conference this year.

Georgetown. Name-brand Georgetown. The school of Iverson, Ewing and Hoya Paranoia will be a mid-major team with TV audiences that could be measured in five-digits.

For years, the basketball schools of the Big East complained – sometimes loudly, sometimes behind closed doors – that the conference was skewed to the football-playing schools. When they finally broke away, it was treated as a liberating movement for all of college basketball.

Here’s a not-so-spoiler alert: The Catholic 7 should have kept their mouths shut and stayed with the American Athletic Conference. A conference with UConn, Memphis and Temple as well as Georgetown, Villanova and Marquette would have remained a legit power capable of grabbing 8 bids in a given year.

Instead, both conferences have been gutted and reduced in stature. The new Big East schools and its fans remain firmly lodged in the honeymoon phase, dreaming of Gus Johnson, kisses off the glass and a network devoted solely to them.

By January, the fallacy of this will become painfully evident. The conference will learn the hard way that Providence/Xavier games are barely good enough for ESPNU, that Butler vs. St. John’s won’t move the needle and their fade into irrelevance will be complete.

When Creighton shows up at the Verizon Center on March 4, the sight of 10,000 empty seats will elicit only one thought:

You have to wonder what Georgetown is thinking.

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21 comments:

  1. You stated that you weren't sure what to focus on in your blog? Maybe focus on everything but basketball as this post was a joke.

    The Pac 12 and SEC are better than the new Big East? Are you kidding? The members of the new Big East have outperformed those conferences for quite a while now.

    You belittle Villanova and Marquette as programs in the Big East but use those two to help bolster an argument that the AAC and Big East together is a power conference?

    You're comparing the ratings for a decades old network to one that is barely a few months old?

    You belittle Xavier, clearly the best A10 program for quite a while, because they haven't won an A10 tourney for years but mention Temple? Xavier has 4 Sweet 16s since 2008. Far greater success than Temple.

    You want to question Butler without Stevens? What about Memphis without Calipari? Pastner has done great within a weak CUSA and nothing outside it.

    I laughed at your comment mocking how FS1 created the new Big East since the original Big East was basically created by a fledgling ESPN.

    Not only all of this but there isn't another conference recruiting as well as the Big East has done. They've collectively torn it up and the wealth is spread across the conference, not all just going to one team like Kentucky and the SEC.

    Try again but leave whatever agenda you had at the door.

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    1. The new Big East's last national champion was in 1985.

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    2. And the Pac 12 has had 2 since the 1970 UCLA run. The Big 12? They've had 2 in about a half century. You're not making any good points.

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    3. Don't get mad at me that the new league is a mid-major.

      Enjoy all the Providence/Seton Hall/DePaul games you want. The point is, no one else cares about the league. I'm just trying to warn you it's going to fail. You don't have to believe me now, but it's not going to work.

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    4. "The American, especially this year, is miles better...".

      Ha! Ha! Sure, and the AAC will be just fantastic without Louisville. I hope you enjoy all those Tulane/Houston/East Carolina/Tulsa games. What was that you said about mid-major?

      By the way, how are those teams recruiting as compared to the three you mentioned above? The future looks bright for the AAC! LOL!

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    5. http://www.sbnation.com/college-basketball/2013/8/24/4654892/emmanuel-mudiay-recruiting-smu-larry-brown

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    6. You are an idiot. Louisville is on rent for one year to the aac. UConn is begging to be taken in by the ACC or whoever will take them. The new BE will be around for a long time. Do you think FS1 and the BE have a 1 year contract???

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    7. So you can find info about recruits? Yet you choose to just completely ignore it in regards to the future of the Big East? Yep, solid, solid take on the situation.

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  2. Sign me up to watch Tulsa and those East Carolina Pirates...

    Thanks for the other posts about the Bachelorette- you well rounded blogger guy

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    1. That wasn't the Bachelorette. That was my man Eric Decker.

      But I'll put "well rounded blogger guy" on my business card. Has a certain je ne sais quoi about it.

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  3. More like- 'je ne sais quoi' I am talking about.

    But congrats on getting people to read your blog- i noticed this is the only posting you have comments on in a few months..

    YOU MADE IT- CALL MOM AND DAD

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  4. I I wish that the catholic 7 and AAC stayed together, but the truth was the league was falling apart. Louisville leaving was the last straw for the catholic 7. Do you think if the Catholic 7 stayed, that UConn wouldn't leave to the ACC? cmon we gotta be real. The problem here is that these schools don't play FBS football, which cause the league to fall apart. As well why would Villanova want to play in the same league as city rival Temple in the same league. This would hurt their recruiting.

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  5. I'm going to miss the Big East I grew up with, headlining Syracuse, UCONN, Pitt, Georgetown and Louisville. Being an Orange fan, I am happy being able to see them in a decently competitive football league, but I'm going to miss these old basketball matchups.

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  6. If the new Big East is "a glorified mid-major conference" with names everybody knows and big metro markets, what does that make the hodgepodge of anonymous rejects that comprise the AAC? Sure Memphis joins UConn at the top, but just gives you a warmed-over CUSA. Memphis moved the mountain to Muhammad, and now the storied and adorable Huskies are stuck with a bunch of nobodies I can't even remember.

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    1. This comment is so gloriously funny to read, since the AAC has 4 Top 25 teams (Memphis, CIncy, Louisville, UConn) and a fifth coached by Larry Brown (SMU) that is on the bubble.

      The New Big East has one good team (Villanova). Have fun with that.

      And just because you can remember the name "Butler" or "St. John's" or "DePaul" doesn't mean anyone wants to watch them play.

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  7. The problem with the article is that it assumes that the C7 actually had a meaningful choice. With Syracuse, Pitt, WVa gone (after BC years ago), and Louisville and Rutgers on the way out, and UConn and Cincy begging to go, the move by the C7 to create a basketball centric conference that was stable was the best defensive move. And the writer ignores that in the 60s and 70s, the old Big East schools weren't necessarily thought of as monster basketball powers ... it was building a basketball centric conference in major markets with ESPN promoting (and super recruiting of players like Ewing, Mullin, Berry, Pearl, Mourning, etc.) that created the conference. Given the choice of playing programs with little or no basketball history regularly (no disrespect to Memphis or Houston), the choice seemed obvious. If Depaul and St. John's can ever get their acts together and keep top talent at home, then the conference can be a monster. But if its not, then the C7 are no worse than they were going to be.

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  8. Spot on. New Big East is a joke.

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  9. I don't doubt that the new Big East had a bad season. DePaul did make the field of 32 in the NCAA Tournament in 2004...10 years ago, not 15. I feel the new Big East should have started with 12. Butler, Creighton, Dayton, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Saint Louis, Seton Hall, St. John's, Villanova and Xavier. DePaul desperately needs a new athletic director as she doesn't care about men's athetics. Saint Louis has been strong rivals with both DePaul and Marquette during their C-USA days and Dayton is Xavier's arch rival. It wouldn't hurt to add 2 Northeastern members like Siena, Canisius, Niagara, Loyola Maryland, Manhattan, Duquesne to even out the fact that there would be 7 midwestern members and 5 eastern members.

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  10. The ACC will never add UDonn. BC will not allow it.

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  11. Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Miami, Virginia Tech and Louisville all left the original Big East. 7 of the ACC's 15 member were formerly members of the original Big East. Only 4 members of the former Big East are left in The American (Cincinnati, Connecticut, South Florida, and Temple). The Catholic 7 wanted to leave because the 8 members that left were being replaced by schools of lower caliber. If the Big 12 doesn't expand above 10, Cincinnati will remain in The American. Connecticut only has a shot at ACC membership if they have a good football team also.

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  12. I wouldn't be surprised if the ACC expanded to 16 and tried to get Georgetown or Villanov from the Big East.

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