Who am I? How did I get here?
It's what the Big East must be singing to itself after learning that Notre Dame will be the next team to abandon the conference. To better understand and fully soak in what the Big East has gone through in the past nine years, we've assembled this chart. Quite the tally board, and clearly the Big East is now on the worse end of it. It is most certainly not the same as it ever was. Below, some reaction* to what the moves meant then and what they've come to mean or impact now for the college basketball side of things.
A look at who has come and gone in the Big East (football and basketball) since 2004.
|Notes: Temple rejoined the conference in 2012 in football and becomes a basketball member in 2013; Boise State and San Diego State will join the conference as football-only members in 2013; Navy will join the conference as a football-only member in 2015.|
Miami (left for ACC): A big deal at the time, but it's turned out to have very little basketball impact on the Big East. It's a bit of a brand loss, but removing the football component, basketball didn't really suffer at all from not having The U.
Virginia Tech (left for ACC): Has never been a great basketball school. In fact, it's primarily known for NOT getting into the NCAAs. The big deal with Va. Tech leaving was, it was a compound issue. The Hokies weren't relevant in the Big East. But when you remove this program, Miami and of course Boston College -- a staple of the league -- then the Big East took some initial blows.
Boston College (left for ACC): A good program at the time. In the years since, the Eagles have fallen off. But no doubt it was a hit to the league. Plenty overreacted to BC's exodus, predicting a sizeable downfall for the Big East in the middle portion of the past decade. Obviously that didn't happen. Ironically, now seems the time to react with the amount of alarm that was exercised then. Because Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame (and will we see a fourth? Georgetown? Connecticut? Louisville?) leaving this league does so much more permanent and monetary damage than the first pilfering.
West Virginia (left for Big 12): Jettisoning for the Big 12 is a don't-know-what-you've-got-till-it's-gone situation. In part, the Big East was so good and dominant not because UConn won two titles and Syracuse got another, but there was all the history, and schools like Marquette, Louisville and Georgetown were making Final Fours. You also had West Virginia -- which, by the way, made a Final Four just two years ago -- consistently keeping either the middle or top of the league better than the other big boys. Die hard, niche fan base and one of the most recognizable coaches in the sport in Bob Huggins. The Big East wasn't a powerhouse because of WVU, but with its heel turn to the Big 12 this year, it loads up on the loss of luster for the league.
Pitt (leaving for ACC): A stable and solid program, one that's good for the ACC, but really doesn't need it. Any league it goes to, it boosts the overall profile but doesn't dramatically enhance its appeal. Pitt is what you think it is: successful, workmanlike and largely reliable. Also: a little boring.
Syracuse (leaving for ACC): The sexy addition. That national title from '03 goes a long way, and although he's in the winter of his career, bringing in a coach like Jim Boeheim to stroll the sidelines adds that historic, successful element to the ACC basketball programs that it cherishes so much. Syracuse is the most vital piece between the Big East and ACC exchange.
Notre Dame (leaving for ACC): It's an odd duck of a hoops program in that it's not an incredible one, but it's not as average as you think. The team has largely stuttered in the NCAAs in the past 15 years, but it's frequently been near or at the top of the loaded Big East chase since the turn of the century. It's got a good coach with a comfortable future. Notre Dame to the Big East is like mashed potatoes: you don't notice them at first, but they automatically enhance the meal.
Cincinnati: Was a boon to the Big East. Basically, with all the '05 Big East add-ons, the league shut up all the doubters. While some of the programs brought in were filler worse than anything found on an '80s Rush record, there were a few standout schools that upped the stock of the Big East as a whole.
DePaul: Was a mistake from the beginning. Isn't Big East-caliber and never will be.
Louisville: Obviously the most important piece. The Cardinals have been premiere since the second they left C-USA and joined their more natural fit in the Big East. Rick Pitino has returned the program to a top-10 national level since he got there.
Marquette: Some thought the Big East might be too much for the small private school in Wisconsin. Not the case. Marquette adjusted, and in this case -- and we might see a similar pattern unfold with Notre Dame in the ACC -- both parties were better for the marriage. Marquette's easily a better program now than it was eight years ago.
South Florida: For so long, it brought the league down. The only problem with the Big East has been its moldy, smelly basement, which has been occupied by about four or five programs consistently since the league went big in '05. USF is one of those programs. Despite its recent upturn, it still holds no real value to the league, although it was a lower stock, so to speak, when the Big East took it in back in '05.
Central Florida: We're talking about a program currently going through a postseason ban. UCF is a league perfect for C-USA. Its impending "rivalry" with South Florida will do virtually nothing for Big East cachet. This circumstance really spotlights the Big East's problem. It's no longer truly an Eastern Seaboard-based league with natural, long-standing rivalries. Now annoying annual get-togethers like USF-UCF will be part of the makeup.
Houston: Decent history, but basically irrelevant since the first President Bush moved boxes into the White House. Again, seemingly a panic move for the Big East going forward. Programs like this could have decent years, or veritable flash-in-the-pan seasons, but this isn't brand-building. This is watering down inventory for the sake of keeping the league at 16 teams.
Memphis: Undeniably huge. Without Memphis, the Big East could arguably be in worse shape going forward than the A-10. The city cares more about the Tigers than it does the pro team. It always brings in good talent, is a player nationally and stands to be a top-20 program in the years ahead if Josh Pastner -- one of the youngest and most aggressive recruiters in the sport -- can combine his great luring ability with some standout coaching. Great, great get for the Big East.
SMU: DePaul 2.0 as far as I'm concerned. The Larry Brown hire seems a short-term solution. In five years, will SMU be any better off?
Temple: Next to Memphis, the next-best available option for the Big East. Definitely a very good thing. Sensible location, plus the Villanova rivalry will get more juice. Temple's a stable, solid, top-50 program that doesn't seem threatened to fall out of that distinction. Its invitation was imperative to the Big East getting a good TV deal going forward -- something that probaby won't be as lucrative as before, even if the damage is relatively slight, now that Notre Dame's packing up.