One is to commit to rebuilding its football ranks. Down to seven schools that compete in the NCAA’s top division once Syracuse and Pittsburgh leave for the ACC, the league will be one shy of the eight required to retain its automatic Bowl Championship Series bid (assuming Texas Christian joins the league as planned in 2012). Retaining that BCS status is the only way to have any leverage at the bargaining table when its current TV contract expires and, in turn, prevent more football schools from bolting.
The other is to concede that its hybrid composition of football and non-football schools, cobbled together since 1991, no longer works. As a result, it could shed big-time football and recast itself as a basketball-only conference centering on Georgetown, DePaul, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova — perhaps extending invitations to like-minded institutions such as Xavier and Butler.
Big East Commissioner John Marinatto, whom some fault for not anticipating the defections of Pittsburgh and Syracuse, declined repeated requests for interviews on the topic.
But he presented a united front upon emerging from a closed-door meeting with leaders of the football schools in New York last week, saying the remaining Big East members had pledged to work together to recruit replacements.
On Monday, Louisville basketball Coach Rick Pitino addressed the Big East’s future in a provocative blog post, calling for the immediate admission of Temple, which the league kicked out in 2005. While schools such as East Carolina have issued news releases about their interest in joining the Big East, Temple has made its case on the field, thrashing Maryland 38-7 in College Park on Saturday and playing Penn State close earlier in the year.
Asked shortly before kickoff whether he felt Temple warranted consideration by a major conference, Athletic Director Bill Bradshaw said: “We’re committed to the highest level of competition, wherever that takes us.”
According to sources, the Big East has identified Navy and Air Force as its top choices for football membership. In addition to East Carolina, Central Florida and Houston are reportedly interested.
Georgetown Athletic Director Lee Reed said the Hoyas don’t favor a basketball-centric league but remain committed to building the strongest BCS-quality conference possible.
“We’re working on the football side of things, but the basketball remains extremely strong,” Reed said. “We’ll get through this and come out on the other end stronger. I’d be concerned if we didn’t have options. But we have options.”
‘No easy solution here’
Reed confessed that “it hurt” when he heard Syracuse was leaving for the ACC, given the passionate rivalry between the teams and the mutual (if grudging) respect among their respective fans. He added that he expects the rivalry to continue even after Syracuse leaves, saying, “We’re committed to finding a way to compete against Syracuse.”