While the football half of what remains of the Big East was conducting meetings in Dallas, hoping to keep San Diego State–and other nervous members–in the fold, the group of 7 Catholic schools were considering the possibility which would add existing football members Connecticut and Cincinnati into the group for all sports but football.
The meeting in Dallas produced no hard decisions, but the general consensus after the meeting was that San Diego State would be remaining with the Mountain West in all sports.
If that plays itself out in the next few weeks, two more Big East members, Cincinnati and Connecticut, may be ready to depart.
According to sources at Connecticut, some UConn officials were considering a plan which would keep the Huskies with the Catholic 7–Marquette, DePaul, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Georgetown, Villanova and Providence, as well as Cincinnati.
Others, including UConn Athletic director Ward Manuel, who was at the Big East meeting in Dallas, emphatically said that the Huskies’ intention was to keep all sports together in one league.
If the Catholic 7 , plus UConn plan was put in place, schools as Butler, Xavier and Saint Louis would be the front runners in a very powerful basketball conference.
In order to do that, however, UConn officials must find a place for football. And while nothing officially has been offered, another landing place for football is being explored.
It seems very unlikely that staying in the Big East in football, but playing in the Catholic 7 league in basketball would be approved. The Huskies could try and make it work as an independent, but that is also not likely to happen.
They could offer themselves as a free agent, perhaps venturing to the Mountain West as part of an overall expansion plan for the MWC which would expand from 10 teams to 12, 14 or 16 teams, if the schools currently committed to the Big East such as Houston, SMU, Memphis, Central Florida and South Florida, find themselves in a crumbling football conference and switch to the MWC.
Or they could be part of a hybrid of survivors from Conference USA or join the MAC. None are ideal situations.
But if the idea of protecting basketball becomes a paramount issue, then the split format may work.
For UConn and for the Catholic 7 base, it becomes a win-win situation. The 12 team basketball league would be filled with highly successful schools in a relatively tight geographical area and would also maintain some strong rivalries such as Providence-UConn and Georgetown-UConn.
UConn’s commitment to the MWC in football would be as federated member only and while it would stand alone as an Eastern rep in a western based league, the addition of Cincinnati and perhaps the Florida or Texas schools would make it a much more workable arrangement.
For the Catholic schools, there would be little risk if UConn and Cincinnati were taken by the ACC, since a solid base of 10 all basketball schools would remain and could be replaced with other solid schools such as Creighton, George Mason or VCU.
Caught in the middle of this tug of war is Big East commissioner Mike Aresco, who Friday put on a positive face about the talks in Dallas. But Aresco could also be working for the new non-football playing Big East in the future as well, something he is already doing as he negotiates a new contract in basketball for next season for all the schools still connected to the Big East.
© 2013, Mark. All rights reserved.