Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

December 8, 2011

Greed didn’t maim the Big East. Stupidity did.

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 5:33 pm

The Big East will of course continue in some form, but as a top-echelon basketball conference the league has been dealt a mortal blow. Pitt, Syracuse, and West Virginia are leaving, and Houston, SMU, and UCF are joining the league.

True, Connecticut, Louisville, Villanova, Georgetown, and Marquette are all strong programs, but strong programs are done no favors by new members like these. To use marketing-ese, the “brand” of the Big East has been seriously diluted, and no one is more brand-conscious than recruits. Some Big East coaches are going to heroic lengths to try to spin this as a good thing somehow, but the truth is no one wants to get worse.

Too bad. The Big East just got worse.

Beastly no more
NCAA tournament wins since 2000

1. Connecticut (26)
2. Louisville (12)
3. Villanova (12)
4. Georgetown (9)
5. Marquette (8)
6. Cincinnati (7)
7. Notre Dame (6)
8. Seton Hall (3)
9. DePaul (1)
10. St. John’s (1)
11. Providence (0)
12. Rutgers (0)
13. S. Florida (0)
14. Houston (0)
15. SMU (0)
16. UCF (0)

Everyone can agree this is a shame, but let’s form a reality-based alliance and agree not to blame “football” or “greed.” Football is indeed the direction the wind is blowing in, but football doesn’t compel people to behave stupidly when it gets a little windy. And as for greed, there’s no reason whatsoever why everyone — schools, conferences, networks, everyone — couldn’t have made fistfuls of dollars across multiple sports while Syracuse, Pitt, and West Virginia remained in the Big East for basketball.

The conference alignments that make the most sense for football from a revenue standpoint don’t necessarily make the most sense for basketball from a revenue standpoint — and it goes without saying they don’t make the most sense from any other standpoint. (See the new-look Big East, above.) In a more rational world, one staffed by grown-ups, the implications of this incommensurability would be plain: render unto football what is football’s and leave every other sport alone. Configure football conferences any way you want, but leave these three great basketball programs in the Big East, and while you’re at it leave Missouri basketball in the Big 12 where the Tigers can get their hate on with Kansas twice annually.

There’s nothing new or revolutionary about a school maintaining memberships in different conferences for different sports. It just means there’s a little more work for everyone involved: different TV deals covering different sports, more hoops to jump through in terms of revenue distribution, etc. None of that is particularly daunting much less earth-shattering, but in the form of the new Big East we are now confronting the consequences of not doing that work.

An ersatz Big East is being portrayed as a regrettable but inevitable byproduct of football-driven evolution. Nonsense. This didn’t have to happen, and it pisses me off.

Thanks to John Infante, who answered some questions I threw his way for this post.

Twitter: @JohnGasaway. Contact: here.

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