"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

A new reality awaits....

We all knew this could happen. Many have predicted it for years. Only a few short weeks ago it was nearly certain to occur with Texas A&M's departure to the SEC only to have that tremor die down when conference commissioners almost in unison said they were done expanding. The ACC said they were happy with 12, the Pac 12 was happy with 12, the Big Ten was happy with 11...but the Big 12 was a mess. Eight days after those statements were made, a new reality awaits Marquette and many other schools. Expand they did. This should come as no surprise.

At this point, a range of emotions is probably coursing through your brain.

There's this one:




Or this one:




Or this one:




Or this one:





I'm sure there are 100's more running through our heads. Without football, MU is a bystander waiting for the music to stop, waiting to see if any chairs remain open or any pretty girls waiting to be asked to dance. Hell, at this point hoping for pretty isn't even an option. Dr. Ruth an 3 day meth binge would be acceptable. MU isn't the only one in this boat. Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Providence, DePaul are most at risk. Then there are those like Rutgers, USF, Louisville, West Virginia, Cincinnati who play football but don't have an invite to the Winter Ball either. Louisville's top 15 revenues in the country might attractive for someone assuming their academic ineptness is ignored.

The unfortunate reality is that the Big East may be all but dead, but even if it survives it isn't the same. Tonight it is on life support, but a few more defections and the conference is likely done unless it can cobble something together with the remaining football dregs left begging for a dance partner. One would have to think Texas Christian (TCU) is doing everything they can to work a deal to get into what's left of the Big 12 and bolt the Big East. The Mountain West had no penalty fee for leaving which works in their favor. Having to pay two exit fees for two different conferences might have been too high a hurdle. Likewise, USF, Louisville, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Rutgers and UCONN are all angling to get out. Rutgers and UCONN could be gone in the next few days to the ACC. WVU would love to go to the SEC...that doesn't mean the SEC wants them. Louisville, USF, Cincinnati staying in the Big East? It could kill their football programs unless they could get Kansas, Missouri, K-State, Baylor, Iowa State to come East. Or is Missouri to the SEC rumor valid? Then again, why wouldn't the remaining Big 12 teams just tug the remaining football Big East teams to come west instead of vice versa? Or, do KU, K-State and Missouri round out the Big Ten....remember the Big Ten said they are happy as clams to stay at 11....don't believe that for a second. You might even see Penn State break off and join the ACC and the Big Ten is forced to shore up anyway. The Big Ten will expand, whether it is Notre Dame or some remnants of the Big 12, they will panic like every other conference is now and go for the numbers.

Many possibilities out there....you haven't heard Marquette mentioned in any of them...and you won't. This shouldn't surprise anyone....we all knew it could happen. This is the new reality that awaits Marquette.

So let's deal with the doomsday scenario...the Big East dissolves. If that were to happen, the large television checks that came to each school go away as well. That's a huge impact on the athletic department that receives most of it's revenue from basketball or basketball related functions....that includes donations. Don't let anyone kid you that most of the donations are not tied to basketball. To make up that revenue difference, either donors, higher ticket prices and/or the university have to step up, or MU makes budget cuts to deal with the realities of less revenue. Raising ticket prices will be a tough sell if UCONN, UL, Cincinnati, Pitt, Syracuse, etc are not rolling into the Bradley Center any longer. That leaves the other two scenarios.

The most optimistic scenario is somehow, someway MU remains or relocates to a conference that still has a solid TV deal, solid competition and is able to remain in tact. The remaining Big 12 schools merge with the Big East in a move to save both. How strong would such a league be? Is a league formed through desperation a league that can last? Such a move preserves the BCS bid for the football folks and could retain a decent television contract mostly on the strength of the basketball schools...again.

The other scenario, some might call the Purity Scenario, is an all basketball league, perhaps even Catholic League of Big East basketball schools along with some A-10 schools like Dayton, Xavier, St. Joe's. For basketball fans it moves us out of the football dealings once and for all with focus on roundball. In a utopian world, this sounds great. In the real world with television contracts and such, this presents a slap in the face reality that revenues will change and change significantly. Football contracts drive the train and a basketball only league simply cannot generate the revenue that a football league does. Sure, this would be a wonderful basketball conference if this scenario should unfold, but the realities are that the dollars would likely not match those of the Big East. The Big East was the number one conference in the country in men's basketball revenue at $154 million last year....but on a per school basis it was 4th at $9.6 million per school. A conference like the Atlantic 10, less than $4 million per school in revenue...those are the new realities if we go down this path.

A brand new president, no Athletic Director (not that it would make a hill of beans difference if an AD was in place...this is driven by the school presidents) and the new reality is even more challenging. Times, they are a changing and MU's decision to drop football years ago is even more painful today. UCONN was called fools for starting up football at the highest level in 2000, but it's paying off in spades for them today. USF made the commitment 14 years ago...they will also have a seat at the table somewhere.

So pick your emotion...."Remain calm, ALL IS GOOD" or "we are totally screwed".....the impact of these changes will resonate loudly in one way or another with Marquette and the future. It's ability to compete in a national conference with a national footprint, it's ability to recruit, play on television, retain quality head coaches, etc, are all going to be tested.

Go Marquette!

1 comment:

bwaldron.com said...

I'm in the "remain calm" camp myself.

Most of us knew that the Big East was an unstable entity and that this was going to happen at some point. From our standpoint, the timing isn't bad, as it catches us at a high point (just as our timing was perfect to grab the BE invite).

I'd much prefer that we join together with the other top tier hoops schools w/o BCS football in a conference configuration that will be stable going forward and makes sense travel-wise for our other sports as well.

Such a reformulated "Big East" (using that name or not) under strong & smart leadership would be able to land a good TV package and the associated recruiting benefits.

Lots of heartburn, but we will be fine.