Catholic schools gearing for Big East breakaway?

December 11, 2012 – 1:38 am by Hickey

It wouldn’t be a week in sports without rumors of conference realignment. This week is no different, though stunningly this time it involves realignment that may actually make an iota of sense.

Blogger/reporter Mark Blaudschun is reporting that ADs and presidents of the seven* non-football playing members  of the Big East met Monday night in New York City to discuss their future. (Villanova is included in this group, though they are one of the stronger programs at the I-AA level of football).

The conference is scheduled to have an unwieldy 19 basketball-playing members in the near future, with that membership stretching all the way from the eastern seaboard to Texas.

Villanova, Marquette, DePaul, St. John’s, Providence, Seton Hall and Georgetown will apparently use the next several months to decide whether to stay in the Big East or move on to form something new.

The benefit of staying in the Big East is being able to share in the conference’s football revenue without actually playing it — though when you split a lousy TV contract 19 ways, how much is there to go around?

Another pro-Big East argument is the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden, which is arguably the best in college basketball. Or at least it was. The defections of Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame and Louisville take away from the event’s cache. And if MSG decided not to have the Catholic League tournament, I suspect the Barclay’s Center would jump all over it.

The bigger issue is that no one likes an odd-numbered league, even if most people consider 7 to be lucky. So once again, we are looking at the prospect of league-jumping.

The most logical place to add on to this theoretical league is the Atlantic 10, which is also chock-full of urban Catholic schools, not to mention another prime example of horrible counting.

Of the 16 teams currently in the league, eight are Catholic. Of those, three most closely fit the profile this new league would probably be looking for — Dayton, Xavier and Saint Louis.

Frankly, that might be the best-case scenario for all involved parties.

You’d have a 10-team league of like-minded Catholic schools, creating a fairly level playing field. Villanova and Dayton are the only ones who play football, though neither is making money hand-over-fist on the sport in Division I-AA. You’d also have an 18-game home-and-home basketball schedule, which is the way it should be for every league in a perfect world.

The Big East would obviously be smarting from the loss of more traditional powers, but at this point it has just become the bastard child of Conference USA anyway. At least 12 teams would be a much more manageable arrangement. Otherwise, I think the Big East probably needs these schools far more than they need it.

And the Atlantic 10 would hardly be decimated by losing three schools plus Temple, which goes to the Big East next season, and UNC-Charlotte, which departs for C-USA. With Butler, VCU, Richmond, St. Joseph’s in the conference, it would still be a solid league, though it might only produce two NCAA tournament bids a year instead of a potential 4-5. They’d have to add another school to get up to 12, with George Mason being a logical choice. Three Final Four teams from the past decade is a pretty good deal.

While I have disagreed with every part of conference realignment up to this point the breakaway Catholic League and the ensuing dominoes would finally make a step in a logical direction.

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  1. One Response to “Catholic schools gearing for Big East breakaway?”

  2. Back when Notre Dame was still in the Big East, I thought this was the best idea, especially for ND. That way, they could still be in a fairly strong basketball league (with, I assume, an automatic qualifying bid for the NCAA tournament), be surrounded by like-minded schools, and then still be independent when it comes to football. I even imagined Dayton and St. Louis joining, too (I didn’t think about Xavier).

    So, if the ACC ever breaks apart (or when), I hope Swarbrick or whoever is calling the shots keeps this idea in the back of their mind.

    By MJenks on Dec 11, 2012

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