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The Fall Of The Big East Revisited

A sad but probably inevitable story

Georgetown University vs St. John’s University
In the 1980’s, Big East basketball was as good as anywhere in the country and better than most.
Set Number: X31033 TK1 R2 F4

This is a really interesting piece from ESPN’s Andrea Adelson on the collapse of the old Big East.

It starts very dramatically with the then-commissioner John Marinatto getting news in 2011 that Syracuse and Pitt would be leaving for the ACC and then fainting. This followed the departure of Miami and Virginia Tech in 2003. Later Boston College and Louisville would follow and then Notre Dame but not in football.

You have to feel bad for Marinatto. He may have been in over his head (this article suggests that he was) but even in a perfect world, the Big East was really two conferences in one - one of mostly Catholic northern schools focused on basketball and one where football was much more of a priority.

It was never going to last.

The bigger football schools mostly left for the ACC (West Virginia joined the Big 12 and UConn is now back in the Big East).

What most of us have probably forgotten is that the Big East walked away from a decent media deal with ESPN for $155 million, up from $36 million, figuring they could do better on the open market.

There’s no doubt that expansion/realignment changed everything and people have long waited for the next round. It may never arrive or if it does, it may come in a different way than anyone expects. For instance, NIL could change things and with Alabama’s Nick Saban saying quarterback Bryce Young is already getting close to $1 million, you can easily see how the Power Five conferences could just give up on the weakened NCAA and pursue power in the marketplace. The players will get paid, but the big paydays are going to be at bigger schools and they’ll get most of the major talent.

It’s impossible to see how, say, Marshall, despite having a fanatical fan base much like Kentucky’s Big Blue Nation, could keep up with Alabama or Miami - or, for that matter why those dominant conferences would want to continue yielding to the objections of less powerful leagues and schools, much less D-II concerns.

It’s really unclear where all of this is heading but as Deep Throat supposedly said during Watergate: follow the money.