The Catholic 7 schools are still in a pre-flight mode, planning the best way to take off. The television contract discussions are moving ahead, slowly, waiting for the final configuration of a league which has been unsettled and unresolved for months.
And the call from the west coast, while important at one point, no longer means as much. Such is life in the Big East right now as Commissioner Mike Aresco goes about his business.
Aresco was in Dallas on Friday, meeting with the new group of Big East schools, the majority of them who feel they are in the right place at the right time.
“A good feeling about where we are and where we are going,” was the way Aresco described it.
The key question, of course, is where is San Diego State–scheduled to join the Big East on July 1–going?
And while no one will officially say anything otherwise, there is a general feeling in Big East circles that the conference will be happy to have the Aztecs join the fold and move forward as an 11 team league in football in 2013 and a 13 team in 2014 (Tulane and East Carolina) and a 14 team league (Navy) in 2015. But the Big East is also very content to go with a 10, 12 and 13 team set up just as quickly.
The meeting in Dallas–which San Diego State officials attended–was a face-to-face meet and greet among the new schools that are coming into the conference next season–SMU, Houston, Central Florida and Memphis, along with the other veterans and newcomers who are all part of the mix such as Connecticut, South Florida and Cincinnati, Tulane (all sports) and East Carolina (football only now, but almost certainly to be included in all sports in the near future).
The consensus opinion of the group was that if everyone stayed together and worked together it could be a viable, competitive league that would make money, contend for a BCS bowl berth and have a presence in basketball.
“Maybe not the best league, but certainly the best of the rest (Mountain West, Sun Belt, Conference USA, MAC, WAC),” said one Big East source, who has been part of the overall strategy discussions.
The key words here are “staying together”. Of the old group of Big East schools, Cincinnati and UConn remain the most likely to get and accept calls from the other BCS conferences if they are made. UConn officials also looked at the prospects of having basketball and the other sports hook on with the Catholic 7 if a reasonable landing spot could be found for the football program. But that possibility only increases if there is another raid on Big East schools from other conferences.
Until, and unless, that happens, there is no great sentiment for UConn to break away unless the ACC, Big Ten or Big 12 make a call to join in all sports.
For San Diego State, an issue of timing remains. San Diego State officials are working on getting the best financial deal they can. But there are no guarantees enough schools in the Mountain West want to take them back and there is a growing sentiment in the Big East schools that having San Diego State as a lone West Coast representative is far from the ideal situation.
The nightmare scenario for San Diego State is that neither the Big East nor the Mountain West wants to take them.
No one in the Big East is saying that will happen, but there is clearly a sense among Big East officials that life will move on with or without the Aztecs with a minimum of cheers or tears.
Big East officials say there is no sense of urgency about the break up of the Catholic 7 schools into their own conference. Unless huge exit fees are paid and money is forfeited, not many people in the Big East office are expecting a mass exodus until July of 2014 at the earliest. The plan right now is to have a 10 or 11 team league in football for 2013 and an 18 team league in basketball which would still include Louisville (ACC) , Notre Dame (ACC) and Rutgers (Big Ten) as well as Temple, UConn, Cincinnati and Memphis AND all 7 of the Catholic schools that say they are leaving.
© 2013, Mark. All rights reserved.