"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, September 18, 2011

ACC’s moves, the Big East and MU

The ACC made two big plays this week that leave no doubt it is the 4th strongest (football ) conference – solidifying its current membership with a unanimous agreement for a $20 million buyout, and apparently wooing Syracuse and Pitt. With this forcing realignment back into the forefront, I ran a quick count on conference strength in football and basketball since the last realignment, giving 30 points for a team finishing the season No. 1, 29 points for No. 2, all the way down to 6 points for finishing 25th (I used coaches’ final polls for both.) Here are the results:

Big 1250924392
Big Ten50434004
Pac 1039743005
Mountain West Conference246676NR
Big East22177021
Conference USA11101117
Atlantic 100NR939
West Coast Conference0NR8810

I set up the system and just ran the numbers without knowing how they would come out, but the results give us a pretty clear picture. Since the departure of Virginia Tech, Miami and BC, the Big East has actually been the 7th best football conference, behind not only the rest of the BCS but also the Mountain West, but has been way ahead of everyone in basketball. While there is no magic to my exact system, the Big East’s 702 points means they’ve done almost twice as well in the end of year polls as the ACC, Big Ten or Big 12, who have all been almost exactly even for 2nd, 3rd and 4th – a much bigger gap than even a “number of teams” argument would yield.

I know realignment is all about TV markets and alumni – but I believe the table does serve some purpose in reminding us just how dominant the Big East has been in basketball, but also how it has always been a pretty weak football conference.

The Big East has never gone toe-to-toe with the rest of the BCS in football. Its status has been as a hybrid of the best basketball conference with good but not great football.

Obviously with TCU, Brigham Young and Utah leaving the MWC, Big East had moved ahead of them to become the 6th best conference. With Texas disrupting the Big 12 with several moves over the years from breaking up the Oklahoma-Nebraska rivalry to including high school football in their new TV network against the Big 12 agreement, the only thing that has changed on the competitive football pecking order has been that the Big East appeared to have moved up from being the 7th best conference to the 5th best conference.

BCS is a means to an end
I’ve been pretty focused on hoping Marquette could stay a part of a Big East that is part of the BCS, but as we look at the scenarios playing out, let’s remember the BCS is not an end but a means to the important ends:

1. We want the best basketball players in the country to consider Marquette because we play in the best basketball conference,

2. We want Marquette’s stature to be increased by millions of dollars in free advertising the school could never afford to purchase in New York and elsewhere.

BCS or not, I still believe the best option is to do everything possible to woo Missouri, Kansas State and Kansas to join with TCU and still try to be the “5th” BCS conference, but if not then clearly be the best of the rest. I understand the argument for just ditching football to combine with the best A10 teams, but I don’t want to give up on keeping the tradition of a football/basketball balance that has been the hallmark of the Big East.

Yes, I know people don’t kill for the Kansas market, but St. Louis does replace the Pittsburgh market. I want the 7.4 million homes in New York to get to watch the best basketball conference in the land, just as I want for the viewers in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Dallas-Ft. Worth:

1New York (St. John’s et al)7,433,820
2Los Angeles5,654,260
3Chicago (DePaul & some MU)3,492,850
4Philadelphia (Nova)2,950,220
5Dallas-Ft. Worth (TCU)2,489,970
6San Francisco-Oak-San Jose2,476,450
7Boston 2,409,080
9Washington, DC (Gtown)2,321,610
21St. Louis (Missouri)1,249,820
23Pittsburgh (Pitt)1,156,460

I don’t want to be Pollyanna, but the SEC at least does offer a glimmer of hope in saying they don’t want to take on any new teams (Texas A&M), if ANY team from the existing conference (Baylor) would sue. There is a lot of sentiment in SEC land for NOT going to 16 teams. They needed 12 for a conference title game, they got it, and they aren’t extremely excited about splitting their money with four extra teams.

So maybe such a move even keeps MU in a BCS conference, but even if not, this creates a conference that could dominate in basketball and offer a decent football package in a network deal.

The perfect scenario for Marquette is being a basketball school that gets major conference coverage in New York and elsewhere. The top players in the land want coverage, but they also want to be the stars on campus, so we hope to continue to offer both.

Why be an afterthought in January after a bowl game when you can be a star on campus at Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Indiana, Marquette or any place else where basketball is king?

A quick look at the Rivals Basketball 150 from last year showed that less than half (70) went to a school with a football program in the Top 50 of the BCS standings. My vote is to keep battling for the football combo for the conference and trust Buzz to keep wooing top talent to Milwaukee to play in the best basketball conference in the country.

1 comment:

Zuch said...

The heyday of the original Big East was the mid-late 1980's with the great Georgetown, St. John's, and Nova teams. This was well before the Big East started playing football together in 1991 when Miami joined. I will miss being in a conference with Pitt and especially Cuse, but Big East hoops can thrive without football.