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The Big East Demise

The Big East Demise

The Big East Demise                      
By Mark Franco

The Big East was founded in 1979 when Providence, St. John's, Georgetown, and Syracuse invited Seton Hall, Connecticut, Holy Cross, Rutgers, and Boston College to form a conference primarily focused on basketball, with Rutgers and Holy Cross declining to join. Villanova joined a year later in 1980 and Pittsburgh joined in 1982. In 1982, Penn State applied for membership, but was rejected; with only five schools in favor (Penn State needed six out of eight).

In basketball, Big East teams have made 16 Final Four appearances and won six NCAA Championships (UConn with three, Villanova, Georgetown, and Syracuse with one each). Of the Big East's 16 full members, all but South Florida have been to the Final Four, the most of any conference, though Marquette, DePaul, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh made all their trips before joining the Big East. In 2011, the Big East set the record for the most teams sent to the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship by a single conference with eleven out of their sixteen teams qualifying.

About a decade after the conference's inception, Big East members decided to become a major football conference and thus added five schools including Rutgers, Miami, Temple, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. The inaugural Big East football season launched in 1991. I think that in the long run that hurt the conference much more that it helped. The Big East in football just could not compete with the likes of the other big conferences around the country.

The unusual structure of the Big East, with the "football" and "non-football" schools, led to instability in the conference. In 2003, the ongoing press reports of tensions between the football schools and the basketball-only schools finally exploded into a months-long public tug-of-war between the Big East and the Atlantic Coast Conference over several Big East members. The end result was that three Big East schools—Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College—moved to the ACC.

Back in November 2012 the ACC voted to invite Louisville to join in 2014, making them the seventh school since 2004 to leave the Big East in favor of the ACC. Less than two weeks after Louisville announced its departure for the ACC, multiple media reports indicated that the Big East's seven remaining non-FBS schools, all Catholic institutions, were considering a mass exit from the conference. By December 13, it was likely that the non-FBS schools would indeed leave to form a new conference, and on December 15, the seven schools made their departure official, effective with the 2015–16 school year. Many details remain to be worked out, with one major issue being whether the "Big East" name would stay with the FBS schools.

On December 31, Boise State announced they had decided to stay in the Mountain West conference, leaving the Big East, much like TCU, without ever playing a game in it. With Boise State staying in the Mountain West, it was noted that San Diego State would indeed try to rejoin the Mountain West as well.[On January 16, 2013, reports surfaced that SDSU would indeed stay in the Mountain West. Rumors of the MWC looking at potentially adding Houston and SMU as its 13th & 14th football members, both of which have stated they will join the Big East in 2013, continue to circulate as well. For the 2013 season, the Big East currently has ten committed full members which compete in football.

This week I watched the last matchup of Syracuse and Connecticut as Big East rivals. How sad it was to watch. As Brett Musburger said at the end of the broadcast "A great rivalry comes to an end for the time being, they bring the curtain down for the last game".

"It's been a great series. Syracuse and Connecticut have played some great games over the years," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. "It's one of those that happens. It's been talked about a million times in a million places. We couldn't stay together. I feel bad about the whole thing."

Freshman Omar Calhoun scored 15 points, including three 3-pointers in the deciding second-half run, to lead Connecticut in the rivalry's finale, for now.

What the true faith of what will be left of the Big East is still yet to come, it's a shame to destroy what was one of the best college basketball conferences in America.

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