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End Of Days For The Big East

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We were never particularly passionate about the Big East. When we watched in the early days, it was all about physical basketball, about intimidation and really an ugly form of the game. When they experimented with six fouls, that was really the ultimate expression of that stage of the Big East: brutish, nasty and not nearly short enough.

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Over time though we came to admire the way Jim Boeheim's team (the old stereotype of Boeheim as a not very bright curmudgeon who could recruit but not coach has long since been blown away) played, and in particular the on-court brilliance of UConn's program, at least when they weren't busy deflating themselves after national titles. That was never pretty, but Jim Calhoun really knew the game, even if he gave in at times to his baser impulses.

So we're sorry that it's come to this, that the basketball-first shools are apparently leaving. It's hard to blame them though. What do they care about football?

That's not their game.

There's a lot of talk about how much money they'll lose, and on his radio show Thursday (co-hosted incidentally by Fan's Guide contributor Lauren Brownlow) Joe Ovies used the dreaded phrase "boutique conference."

But will it be? Not necessarily.

Yes they won't make Big Ten money. But as much money as it is, most of the Big Ten still isn't making a profit, and the primary reason is football.

Think of it: you have up to 85 players on scholarship. To pick a fairly random number, say 7,000, that's 595,000 in scholarships. Let's assume further that your coaching staff is getting $3,000,000 million per year. Let's further assume that travel expenses for a party of 150 (counting coaches, trainers, equipment managers and so on) works out to 200 per person per day, and that's probably cheap. Even so, that's around $60,000 per weekend. Let's pick Wisconsin to again be random. Wisconsin had five road trips this season, and a bowl trip.

Regular season? 300,000 for travel, and that's probably way low. They'll be in California for several days for the Rose Bowl. Add another $500,00 or so. Where does that put us?

A minimum of 4,125,000 (standard caveat: our math is horrid). But obviously that varies from school to school: at Vandy, tuition is around 41,000; at Northwestern, it's $43,380. Multiply it by 85, and you get the picture.

Even though football is supposed to be a big revenue producer, for most schools it's not. And we haven't even gotten into the arms race for facilities.

So while football rules today, there might be future circumstances which push schools to sports with lower overhead. If that happens, then the Catholic schools may be in the catbird seat.