Big East's Catholic Schools ... Why Not Go National?

   on December 13 2012 12:50 PM
Big East's Catholic Schools ... Why Not Go National?

It seems inevitable now.

With all the defections, departures and power plays at the intercollegiate athletics level recently, it’s only a matter of time now before the Big East Conference, sadly, even in the deformed, BCS Elephant Man state that it’s currently in, will no longer exist.

Apparently, the self-loathing, guilt-ridden backbone of the religion’s beliefs only stretches so far with the seven Catholic schools who reside in the outfit. If reports are true, the likes of basketball-based Villanova, St. John’s, Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, DePaul and Marquette have had enough with their football-focused friends.

The whole intent of the league, from the time it was just a figment in creator Dave Gavitt’s mind until it came to official fruition in 1979, was to appease a hoops-crazy Northeast, to unite the better programs in that part of the country and, as strength in numbers philosophy would suggest, shine a spotlight on the region and the conference, bringing in some serious coin in the process. Football wasn’t even a concern. In fact, it wasn’t even an option.

However, as the latter grew in importance throughout the 1980s, and a big-money business became an insanely big-money business, it became a must for the Big East to include under its conference umbrella. Back then, two decades ago, the Catholics weren’t about to argue much with the bigger collection plates.

But the “sins” of their partners began to show, and with them the conference started to crumble – first bit by bit with Miami, Virginia Tech and Big East original Boston College bolting for the ACC, and then the onslaught of bailouts the past couple years.

Pretty much the only thing that was left was for the core to eat itself alive … and, now, that looks like it is going to happen as the Catholics – the majority of whom were the foundation of the conference’s formation – appear poised to dissolve or effectively destroy whatever is left of this near-lifeless organizational body.

They want to move on. They want to explore other opportunities. They want to survive, if not thrive, under a different set of parameters, where they’re not beholden to other schools with different motives and strengths calling all the shots … and then paying the consequences of the, oh, so many bad ones made.

The only thing is, what options do they have at this point. Already, it’s been stated that they’ve shunned overtures from the Atlantic 10 – which, considering that conference’s relative stability and growth, seems a bit misguided, if not misinformed. Take the Catholics out of the Big East and what are they?

Do they, individually or collectively, have the kind of clout to look down their noses at, well, any conference and especially one that isn’t exactly chopped liver?

At last check, the A-10 can claim three schools within its current domain that reached the Final Four of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament since 2010, and the Catholic 7 can claim none.

Thing is, the latter has great history … but it’s becoming older every day. It is stagnant, if not fading. The A-10, by contrast, still seems to be evolving, and making new history all the time.

So, what to do …

Just a thought, but the Catholic 7 linking with other strong basketball schools of like-minded religious beliefs to create a national conference would be intriguing, if not profitable for those involved.

Joining forces with, say, Gonzaga, Creighton, Xavier, Dayton and Saint Joseph’s – all with strong histories and at least some national recognition, and all Catholic schools (yes, even Dayton) – would turn a few heads, and set up a potentially powerful basketball league. That would be 12 teams; the circuit certainly could expand and maybe be broken down into divisions that served regional areas best.

Imagine a conference title game pitting Gonzaga against Villanova; or Marquette vs. Georgetown. Not bad. The country would take notice. The conference tournament could be a rotating setup, whereby cities with ties, natural or manufactured, to teams could host. New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle and D.C. would be options.

So, too, would San Francisco if Saint Mary’s, which has gained some solid exposure due to strong showings in recent years, were part of the new league.

Whether anything such as this happens or not remains to be seen, but it sure seems interesting to consider … and, most important of all to those involved, potentially profitable to go ahead and do.