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Football Problems Surface; Basketball Should Take Note

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This is interesting but perhaps not surprising: the seven basketball-only schools of the Big East - Providence, Seton Hall, Marquette,  St. John's, DePaul, Georgetown and Villanova - are apparently again discussing dissolving the Big East and recasting themselves as a basketball-only league.

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This would leave Cincinnati, UConn and South Florida - not to mention the schools which have joined the Big East but not yet begun to play - out in the cold.

The prospective new conference will need a name. The Urban League is taken, which is too bad. It'd be a great fit. Their identity is certainly urban and also Catholic, but being the Catholic League seems a bit easy.

Given that they are essentially peeling off the football layer, may we suggest something a bit novel? Might they not call themselves the Pure Hoops League?

Seriously. You could argue that it's a play on the religious theme one supposes, but we just like the way it sounds.

Think about it on ESPN: "In the Pure Hoops League, Marquette won a thrilling victory over Villanova. In other Pure Hoops action..."

You wouldn't really be tempted to say PHL because it sounds like a delivery service. It'd be Pure Hoops League, and getting people to say and write that over and over again would brand in a neat way.

Speaking of football, as it happens, attendance is significantly down, at the lowest levels since 2003.

Some of it's obvious: the teams are struggling. That's the case, clearly, for Auburn, Kentucky, Tennessee and Maryland, among others.

UNC and Penn State both are dealing with scandals, which may have depressed attendance.

But the programs at Florida, Stanford and Florida State are all doing well on the field. Even mighty Alabama saw a decrease. What gives?

Well, likely a confluence of factors. First, the product has been diluted and rivalries set aside. Texas A&M joined the SEC and unveiled a phenom in Johnny Football, only to see a minor decrease. That probably wouldn't have happened if they were still in the Big 12 with the other Texas schools.

Secondly, the product has been overpriced even while the games have been watered down. Like baseball, it's no longer possible to take a family of four out very often: with ticket prices north of $60, toss in parking and concessions, and you're looking at well over $300. And what about road games? If you go from Texas A&M to Columbia, South Carolina, it's a 16 hour road trip. Who needs it? Flights will have to connect and a quick check suggests about $500. So you're coming up on a $2,000 dollar weekend to see one game and that's just for two people.  South Bend to Miami is around $700. Common sense eventually kicks in.

And bear in mind that all of this is driven by television. The irony is that with relatively cheap big screen TVs, you can, for the price of two season tickets, set up a hell of a media room. You might even put in your own beer tap, there's no line for the bathroom and your parkng is covered.

You don't even need a designated driver if you're hosting.

College conferences may be making the same mistake NASCAR made: they got greedy and overexpanded, left their traditional fans behind, and they've paid a price ever since. NASCAR in Phoenix will never be the same thing as it was in North Wilkesboro.

Football should be very concerned, and basketball should as well. Perhaps the Pure Hoops League, or whatever they end up calling themselves should they reform, will have the last laugh.


Coach K has often said, and Jay Bilas has echoed the thought, that college basketball needs something like a commissioner. The structure is ridiculous: a season-opening marathon to feed ESPN, a series of Thanksgiving tournaments, and then...well, nothing for three or four weeks.

Here's a thought: why not mandate a five-day period in late December where the schedules are left open? Then special matchups could take place: Duke could play Indiana, for instance, to see just who is the best at the moment. Or perhaps Xavier, Cincinnati, Georgetown and Maryland could work out an exchange, with the local rivals playing and then switching off and Xavier playing Maryland one year and Georgetown the next and so on.

But we really like the idea of a holiday tournament where either eight or sixteen top teams get together and just have a cage fight.

By the time March rolls around, the speculations about rematches and score settling will be huge.

Beyond that, other interesting matchups could be mandated: tough, smaller schools like Davidson could get neutral court matches with teams like Illinois or UNLV or Florida.

It would certainly liven up the doldrums of December games and it would also serve to take some of the focus off of March. When the whole point of the season is the postseason, then not to be redundant, but what's the point of the season?