The Big East Conference as we know it is almost no more. In the past few years, leading up to today’s announcement of another school’s rumored leaving; the Big East teams have been dropping like flies and heading to other conferences. Some of the schools exiting are looking for a bigger pay out, giving up tradition for money, while others are looking for more exposure. Are the pastures really greener on the other side?
Some would say so. Let’s face it; the Big East hasn’t been great at negotiating deals with the elite networks to carry their games. They turned down a deal from ESPN that would have paid the member schools double what they earn now from media contracts. Currently conference members make $5.625 million with non-football members making considerably less at $1.5 million. Compare that to numbers reported by Forbes.com’s, Jon Pritchett, which had the ACC paying $17.1 million to each member and the Big Ten Conference dealing out $20 million in their media deals.
While the Big East is trying to make deals with new schools and negotiate media contracts, more teams are becoming restless and schools seem to be fleeing just as fast as they are signing. It has already been brought up Dennis Dodd at CBS Sports that there is a provision in Houston’s contract that allows the team, which is scheduled to arrive in the Big East in 2013, to leave the league without penalty if certain TV revenue numbers aren’t achieved. If Houston were to opt out, it wouldn’t be the first time for the conference. In 2010 TCU accepted the Big East’s invitation and reversed it to start the 2012-13 season with the Big-12 instead.
Highly valued college institutions are changing. The popularity of college sports are causing schools to look more for value and less tradition. In today’s world it is coming down to the bottom dollar. Last year West Virginia joined the Big-12 and left the Big East behind. It is also known that Pittsburgh and Syracuse are making the jump to the ACC in 2013. Then today it was announced that current Big East conference leader, Rutgers, will follow Maryland to the Big Ten in 2014.
With all of these schools departing, whether motivated by money, academics, or exposure, it does beg to question: Is there something that the remaining schools are missing? Is the Big East Conference deteriorating? Not everyone is leaving, though. Houston is slated to become a Big East member in 2013, along with Boise State, San Diego State, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Central Florida.
Boise State aside, when you look at the level of competition with those schools, is this a conference for the University of Cincinnati? Maybe I am biased, but doesn’t UC deserve better? Maybe they would be better suited with an ACC conference or the Big-12. The storied rivalries for the school are hitting the road. So why hold on?
There is probably a lot more to conference loyalties than we all know. Money aside, the academics of the Big East compete with the best in the nation and the schools have long histories filled with greatness. But the landscape is changing and so are the other conferences that have more money. Is it time to jump?