It’s just about over now.
The water is creeping up, having completely engulfed the body and now forcing the head to bob and weave in desperation to garner oxygen; the attempts at finding a life raft, a life preserver or anything else to alter the inevitable having long since lost any legitimacy.
This is the Big East today – alone … helpless … drowning … no salvation in sight.
Just a week after Rutgers announced it would roll out and into the Big Ten, another shoe dropped: Louisville, owner of the top all-around athletic program in the Big East, will be leaving for the ACC. The organization gleefully confirmed its addition Wednesday. That makes seven schools in the past year to have opted to depart the Big East, joining a list that includes West Virginia, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Texas Christian – the last one so beholden to its commitment that it bolted for the Big 12 before ever taking the field or court as a conference member.
If there remains any hope at survival, it is not apparent at the moment. For a once-proud conference that previously boasted a perennial national-title contender in football with Miami and as recently as last year could have claimed to offer the best brand of college basketball out there, the demise is disheartening.
Really, if it can fall apart, seemingly, so easily, what does that say about the landscape of intercollegiate athletics? Stability does not appear to be synonymous with the entity.
For those who scoff at the notion that the Big East was big time in the way the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC are, a crash course on sports beyond the last couple years should be in order.
But who would have time to teach it? At this point, it’s hard enough to keep up with the latest institutional move.
The beginning of the end for the Big East started in 2004, with the defections of Miami and Virginia Tech – the conference’s staple programs, which, at the time, carried serious cachet across the country – to the ACC. Boston College, a charter member of the conference, joined those two a year later.
Since then, it’s been a patchwork exercise, with trying to place a Band-Aid here and apply some tape there. Maybe do a bit of caulking. The Big East itself did a little bit of raiding, snatching the core of Conference USA in Louisville, Cincinnati and Marquette, to counteract the losses.
But the recent ones should prove to be too much.
Not even adding a football media darling such as Boise State can help at this point. Eight others will be added to the Big East fold as well between 2013 and 2015, and Temple just came on board as a full member, bringing another strong basketball program with it.
But it’s all pointless now. The whole idea was to be big time, remain big time and rake in the big-time dollars associated with being a big-time player in the BCS system. There will be no more automatic BCS berth for the Big East the next time contracts are finalized now. Not when its football operation will be compromised of some mutated amalgamation of Big East leftovers, C-USA refugees, Boise, San Diego State and Navy.
That is, of course, if those schools – and others – even remain committed to the Big East.
It’s no secret that current conference members Connecticut and Cincinnati have been looking for a safe landing spot before the Big East completely submerges in a football sense. Boise and San Diego State deny having had convos with the Mountain West after the Rutgers’ onward-and-upward declaration. Thing is, why wouldn’t they have talks with it.
Whether or not the Mountain West is better, or “bigger,” than the Big East right now is almost immaterial. It’s at least being given the chance to breathe, without having its head pushed under – again and again and again.
East Carolina, Tulane and the like may be wondering if the C-USA wasn’t that bad after all. Navy may like the idea of remaining an independent, too. Heck, even Temple may see the Mid-American – the Owls’ former football home – as an oasis right now.
Gasp … gurgle … gurgle.