Will the landscape eventually change again? Sure. But not this year and probably not next if the presidents have their way, which they will. And by the time those same presidents are receptive to hearing further arguments, who knows what else will have happened to reshape the playing field and alter the participants?
All of which brings us back to the original question: While the Big East can afford to relax, should it?
The answer, of course, is easy: No. Whether it be in a year or two years or whenever, the same issues are going to arise. As inarguably the smallest and most vulnerable of the six BCS conferences (vulnerable precisely because it is the smallest and without much football star power, and because of its location woven into the Northeastern media markets), it will be a target. In fact, it will be a much more exposed target should the Big 12, as expected, come out of this round of expansion even stronger.
How to strengthen the Big East, though, is the tricky part, and not only from the perspective of its presidents, who also are loathe to disrupt and adversely affect other institutions. But hasn't that always been the case? No one wants to destroy what the league has going for it on the basketball side, but that is at odds with what's best for the more lucrative football side. Everyone seems to have what they think is the logical solution, but those are usually simplistic formulas that fail to address all the issues.
Sure, adding football members seems smart, but how much would East Carolina or Memphis or Central Florida really add? Perhaps any or all or those schools (or any others that would seem available; Army, Navy, luring back Boston College) might add value, but enough to increase per-school revenues? Doubtful, and certainly not significantly, if at all. And while it would help the scheduling side of football, would any of those schools make the Big East any less vulnerable the next time the Big Ten comes calling? Not likely.
How about tossing Notre Dame to the curb if it doesn't sign up for football? That does absolutely nothing for the football side of the league (which is the issue) and diminishes (although to what degree is arguable) the basketball side. Kicking out Notre Dame might be wise if it forces the Irish to then join the Big Ten and satisfy that league's hunger, but for how long?
Oh, and convincing Notre Dame to simply become more involved in the football side (perhaps by increasing the number of games it plays against league schools) is questionable, too. The Irish have already agreed to do that once and the most significant result was a power play to try and get Connecticut and Rutgers to play series that included no games at Connecticut or Rutgers, but instead in South Bend and at neutral sites. Gee, thanks.
Of course, there is always talk of a split between the football and basketball schools in the Big East (and then forming some sort of alliance between the two), an idea which seems to be picking up steam. Perhaps that is ultimately what is going to have to happen. After all, adding schools to the football side makes the basketball side even more unwieldy than it currently is.
But again, is it worth potentially destroying what is arguably the best basketball league in the country in order to add to the football side schools whose value (both financially and certainly in terms of fortifying the league against future raids) is suspect at best?
These and others are the questions with which the Big East has to grapple. Fortunately, though, recent events seem to have bought them at least a little more time.
They would be well advised not to relax, but to use that time wisely.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.