A Big East Dream
The following story is not true. Unfortunately.
September 18, 2011
After initially accepting an offer to leave their current conference for the ACC, Syracuse and Pitt abruptly reversed course on Saturday and reaffirmed their commitment to the Big East.
“The Big East is where we belong,” said Syracuse chancellor Nancy Cantor in a statement released by the university. “We simply could not envision a future that did not include playing Georgetown, much less traveling to Greensboro, North Carolina for our postseason basketball tournament instead of Madison Square Garden.”
“While the offer from the ACC was tempting, we are convinced that the Big East can survive and thrive,” said Pitt chancellor Mark Nordenberg. “Plus, after spending 20 years in this league without an outright championship in football, we have decided to keep trying.”
The news was a relief to Big East commissioner John Marinatto whose job might have been jeopardized if Syracuse and Pitt had bolted for the ACC.
“The Big East remains a premier conference and will soon improve with the addition of TCU as our 17th member,” said Marinatto. “Believe it or not, when the Syracuse/Pitt rumor began circulating, I was briefly worried that TCU might decide to leave us before ever playing a game.”
Other Big East schools admitted that the potential loss of Syracuse and Pitt would have caused them to investigate the possibility of switching leagues.
“We would have been forced to strongly consider a move to the Big 12,” said West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck. “Thank heavens that didn’t happen. Not only will our fans still be able to travel to watch the Mountaineers play, but we think that Geno Smith will be a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in the Big East in 2012. I’m not sure that’s realistic if we’re facing the likes of Oklahoma and Texas.”
“The Big East helped put UConn on the map and we are excited about its future,” said UConn president Susan Herbst. “But in the last nine months, we won our third national championship in basketball and went to our first BCS bowl game in football, so if the Big East undergoes significant changes, we’ll have no problem finding a new home.”
The key to the league’s long-term stability remains its television contract. After rejecting ESPN’s nine-year, $1.2 billion dollar offer earlier this year, Big East members figure to get a lucrative pay day if they stick together.
“There are strong rumors that Rupert Murdoch and Fox want to start a sports network to compete with ESPN,” said one TV executive who asked not to be named. “I’ve even heard they would be willing to pay $4 million a year to the Catholic schools just for basketball. Imagine the bidding war that’s going to result for a football and basketball package that still includes Syracuse, Pitt, West Virginia, Louisville, UConn, and Cincinnati.”
Of course, the future of the Big East could still be jeopardized if rumors of Big 10 expansion are accurate and Commissioner Jim Delany targets a Big East school.
“Unless Notre Dame decides to give up its independence in football, I can’t see Delany pursuing a Big East school,” said a Big 10 athletic director who did not want his name used. “I mean, we’re certainly not going to go after Rutgers.”
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