Throughout the history of both amateur and profesional sports alike, fans have had no choice but to accept the ever increasing role that politics have come to play within the sports they love. Most recently however, fans of the NCAA’s Big East Conference have definitly had more than their share of political theatre. For the conference that rose to prominence in the mid 1980′s on the backs of programs such as St. John’s, Georgetown, and Villanova, the past decade has been nothing short of a staggered mass exodus. The departures of Boston College, Florida State, Virginia Tech and The University of Miami to the ACC nearly a decade ago, will forever be known as the beginning of the end. With other major programs such as Syracuse, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Louisville also headed for the ACC or Big 10, the future of one of the NCAA’s power conferences has never seemed so uncertain.
The one thing that the media, fans, and those who are directly involved in the process aren’t doing however, is asking why? The reason for this is painfully clear due to the fact that in the NCAA, football has been dictating the priorities of athletic departments for years. With obvious exceptions to this unwritten rule such as Duke, Uconn and North Carolina, who have traditionally been basketball-centric schools, its become somewhat commonplace for NCAA football to drag around their respective athletic departments like a child attempting to walk an unruly puppy.
Although it was supposed to be nothing more than the last few games of the Big East’s regular season schedule, the last two weeks leading up the conference tournament, have turned into a farewell tour for some programs slated for departure. More recently, it was a pair of Syracuse losses to conference rivals Georgetown and Marquette, that most reflected the atmosphere and quality of late-season play, that loyal fans could soon be without..Of course there is competitive and intense basketball being played throughout the NCAA this time of year.Still, for the conference that began in 1979 with the purpose of providing the best that college basketball has to offer to fans in an urban environment, the Big East’s departure would leave a massive void in the NCAA landscape.
As the madness of March nears, and the lights begin to fade on what has been a solid season for college basketball, programs and fans from every corner of the NCAA are hoping for an invitation to the big dance. With good reason however, the mood throughout the fanscape of the Big East cannot help but be somewhat skeptical as to what the future may hold.
Just when the Big East seemed destined to somehow regress into an insignificant mid-major basketball conference that it never was, hope emerges.and all may not yet be lost.
News and various rumours within the past few months have suggested several possible solutions. Everything from a conference that consists soley of catholic universities, to a super-conference of sorts that could possibly include a combination of Big East and Atlantic 10 programs. The seven catholic schools currently in the Big East that do not participate in football, [Depaul, Marquette, Georgetown, St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova, and Providence], have made it clear that they wish to leave the conference and plan to add other like-minded programs in order to recreate the Big East as soon as possible. Rumours as to who those additional programs may be, also seem to have no end. It has become clear however, that the two main things atop the list of priorities for the ”Catholic Seven”, are to retain the Big East name as well as the rights to play their conference tournament at historic Madison Square Garden.
Whatever shape Big East basketball takes in the future, we can be sure that it won’t happen overnight. Its really no surprise that forgotten among all of the football politics are the Big East basketball fans.So, while New Jersey- based Rutgers basketball fans try to figure out a geographical rivalry amongst their future Big 10 competition, [Penn State?], we should ask ourselves, what would happen if SEC basketball programs started trying to dictate the actions of SEC football programs? I think that we all know the answer to that question.
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