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Conference Dating Game: Winners and Losers

2009 April 2
by Brian Goff

Several college athletic conference realignments have taken place over the past 20 years in a process not unlike Match.com. Different parties size each other up based on similarities of athletic programs and TV market appeal. Many matches make sense, such as Florida State, BC, and Miami “hooking up” with the ACC, Oklahoma and Texas matching up in the Big 12, or Louisville and UConn joining forces in the Big East. Just as with dating, this process leaves some players out in the cold such as Rice, SMU, Temple, and others.

One interesting result of the matching and leftovers is that sometimes being left behind works to your advantage and sometimes getting a date works against you. Memphis has benefited and may continue to benefit by its exclusion from the C-USA schools that went to the Big East. Instead of scratching and clawing just to keep their head above water in the Big East anarchy, their dominance of C-USA provided them with nice seeds and a run to the finals and the Sweet 16 over the past two seasons.

In contrast, DePaul received the Big East invite and schools like Seton Hall and Providence retained their places. However, are these non-football schools really a fit for the current 16-member Big East behemouth. An NJ.com post by Steve Politi addresses some aspects of the current dilemma, including touching on whether it make sense in terms of money:

so much of what made the Big East special in its heyday of the late ’80s is missing from its monstrous state in 2009. For every St. John’s-Georgetown tilt, like the 64-59 victory for the Red Storm Tuesday, you end up with a Cincinnati-DePaul.

For every matchup between two longtime rivals, you end up with two teams thrown together out of necessity, in a league that might be too big and too competitive for its own good.

“It’s good for the cash register,” Carnesecca said when asked about the 16-team tournament, but even that seemed debatable. The bottom eight Big East teams squared off Tuesday, but in an era when it seems like every dribble is televised, the four games were only available on the internet.

Would some of the weaker, non-football members of the Big East be better suited for a conference tailored to their interests. A conference made up of DePaul, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Providence and mix them with a group such as Xavier, Dayton, Temple, St. Louis, UMass, Butler and give or take one or two of these or others, and one is left with something more similar to what the Big East started out as in the late 1970s.

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