The Big East isn't dead and it doesn't have to die.
It just has to remake itself.
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And it should get started yesterday, because if there's one thing we've learned over the past 48 hours besides that Floyd Mayweather can knock a man out if he lands two punches while the man isn't looking, it's that sitting idle equates to a self-inflicted gunshot wound in the world of conference realignment. Only the SEC and Big Ten were ever in any real position to just chill on the strength of their brands. Every other league had to decide to play offense or defense, and the ones that didn't choose offense -- Big 12, Big East -- are suddenly scrambling to survive.
Now only one of them will survive.
That seems clear.
If Big East commissioner John Marinatto wants it to be his league, here's what he should do: Assume Rutgers and Connecticut are following Pittsburgh and Syracuse out the door, which would leave the Big East with five FBS football members (Cincinnati, Louisville, TCU, South Florida, West Virginia) and 13 basketball members (Cincinnati, Louisville, TCU, USF, West Virginia, DePaul, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova). He should assume Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech and Missouri are all leaving the Big 12 for greener grass somewhere and offer invitations to the Big 12 leftovers (Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor and Iowa State) to get to nine football members and 17 basketball members. He should then offer invitations to Houston, Memphis and UCF to get to 12 football members and 20 basketball members.
|Kansas and Kansas State could help the Big East offset its basketball defections. (Getty Images)|
Because going to 12 and 20 adds two top-20 television markets (No. 10 Houston and No. 19 Orlando) and a basketball school with, as Louisville coach Rick Pitino noted in his blog over the weekend, great tradition. Plus, a conference championship game could be held for the 12 football members, and, most important, going to 12 and 20 creates a buffer that would help the league endure if, say, Louisville and/or West Virginia decided to leave someday.
This version of the Big East would almost certainly keep its BCS bid in football.
And in basketball it might just be better.
The additions of Kansas and Memphis would help ease the losses of Syracuse and Connecticut, and Kansas State and Baylor as a tandem are probably better than Pittsburgh and Rutgers. Houston has tradition. So does Iowa State. UCF, some think, could turn into a relevant program in time. So while the names on the uniforms would surely change, a reasonable human could argue that the Big East would, under this scenario, actually be a better basketball league than it is today, and, no, 20 basketball members isn't too many. I mean, who cares? The Big East was already set to go to 17 basketball members this season. What's the real difference between 17 and 20? For all I care, Marinatto could opt to really strengthen his basketball brand and also offer invitations to Xavier and Butler to get to 12 football members and 22 basketball members because, at some point, the size of the basketball league is mostly insignificant. Once you exceed 10, you're not having a true round-robin schedule anyway.
Is this a perfect plan?
Of course not.
It's a geographical mess.
But it would ensure that the Big East survives and, right now, that should be the primary objective.