The Big East is on the verge of extinction after the most recent round of conference realignment and expansion in college football.
The conference has lost Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC, Texas Christian -- set to officially join in 2012 -- to the Big 12 and stands to possibly lose Louisville and/or West Virginia to the Big 12, if Missouri leaves for the SEC.
The Big East hopes to grow to 12 football programs -- rumored schools include Air Force and Central Florida -- but the massive 16 team conference can't seem to agree on what schools to invite.
The six remaining football schools want to invite a certain kind of school -- like Boise State -- while the basketball-only schools have resisted schools that wouldn't bring much to the table besides football ability.
The disagreements between the two sides put the conference at an extremely perilous spot, especially if the Big 12 or any other conference poaches any of the remaining schools. Some -- like The Daily's Dan Wolken -- have theorized that a Mountain West-Conference USA merger would essentially doom the Big East's future existence.
If the Big East does cease to exist - what happens to the remaining schools and the rest of college football? How much would the death of a BCS conference shape the rest of college football landscape?
Here's a look how the ramifications of the doomsday scenario of the Big East's death.
Notre Dame to the ACC
The biggest domino to fall from the death of the Big East would be Notre Dame moving its sports to the ACC. The Big 10 has long drooled over adding Notre Dame, but sources indicate that the ACC is the much more likely landing spot for the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame has long said it wouldn't make a move with its programs unless forced to and that day would finally come if the Big East collapsed.
Notre Dame would likely add all of its non-football programs to the ACC, though it's possible -- albeit doubtful -- that the school could place its football program in the conference. It'd add some credible programs and more exposure to the ACC, while giving Notre Dame a stable place to enclose its sport teams.
Connecticut or Rutgers Also Joins ACC
The ACC currently sits at 14 teams after adding Pittsburgh and Syracuse and will only expand to 16 teams if Notre Dame is involved. With Notre Dame forced to move its teams from the Big East to the ACC, the ACC would add another school to get it to an even 16.
The two most likely candidates are Big East leftovers Connecticut and Rutgers. Connecticut has already made its interest in the ACC quite clear, while Rutgers reportedly has interest in the Big 10 and ACC.
Early reports and sources indicated that Rutgers was the preferred team over Connecticut, but UConn has gained some recent steam and support for its cause. One of the biggest things holding Connecticut back in joining the ACC is Boston College athletic director Geno DeFilippo. DeFilippo still harbors ill will towards UConn after it made a big deal about Boston College joining the ACC and told the Boston Globe that his school strongly denounced UConn's ACC candidacy.
If the ACC really wants UConn then the majority of the schools will overrule Boston College, which has little clout within the conference, but right now just bank on one of the two joining.
Big 12 Adds Louisville and/or West Virginia
In our doomsday Big East scenario we assume that Missouri will go the SEC leaving the Big 12 with nine teams and reason to expand. The most likely scenario has the Big 12 targeting the Big East again and adding at least one of Louisville and West Virginia. The general preference seems to be Louisville, but the Big 12 could reasonably expand to 12 teams and include West Virginia.
Big 12 interim commissioner Chuck Neinas recently said there is no consensus for either a 10-team or 12-team conference meaning anything is possible. For our doomsday scenario purposes, let's assume that the Big 12 expands to 12 and adds Louisville, West Virginia, and another program -- perhaps Air Force, Boise State, or Houston.
This would remove the two best programs left in the Big East and completely doom the conference, as we predicted.
Basketball-only Schools Start New League
With Cincinnati and South Florida the only remaining football playing schools in the Big East, the basketball-only schools will break off -- keeping the Big East name -- and add a few other Catholic basketball playing schools to build a bigger and better version of the Atlantic-10.
This league would consist of DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's, and Villanova. The league would likely look to add three to five more schools, including Butler, St. Joseph's, and Xavier.
The addition of those teams would make the reformed basketball-only Big East the second or third best basketball conference in the country. Basketball doesn't drive the major money in college athletics, but this conference would still get a lot of air time on ESPN and other major networks. It also would likely keep Madison Square Garden for its conference tournament, which is a very big deal.
Cincinnati and South Florida to ???
If the Big East blows up, the two schools most likely to be in trouble are Cincinnati and South Florida. Neither of the two schools is an attractive option for any of the other BCS conferences and look to be the two schools left without a seat when the realignment carousel ends.
The two could attempt to crawl back into the Conference USA or look at other options like going independent, joining the MAC or Sun Belt, or some other unknown option.
It's possible that UConn or Rutgers and West Virginia could also be stuck in this sticky situation, but all of those schools are a bit more attractive to prospective conferences.
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