The Big East took aim at becoming America’s conference no more than a few years ago, actively recruiting the likes of San Diego State, Boise State and Texas Christian to form a pervasive league that stretched from coast to coast.
On Tuesday, the Big East took one step closer toward becoming a carbon copy of the misnamed Conference USA instead. Somehow, that doesn’t seem to fit the idea ex-commissioner John Marinatto had in mind when he hatched his vision of “America’s conference.”
The Big East added its eighth and ninth schools from the understated, mid-major conference this week, annexing Tulane and East Carolina in the wake of Rutgers’ jump to the Big Ten. Tulane will join the Big East in all sports while East Carolina plans to be a football-only member.
And so continues the trend of the Big East losing founding members and settling for slapdash replacements.
Rutgers was by no means an indispensable Big East member. Its basketball program, though on the upswing under Mike Rice, remains a hopeless mess in the big picture. (If the flagship school in New Jersey can’t recruit on its own fertile ground, any promise of radical improvement on the hardwood is lost). RU’s longstanding football program, while competitive this year, has never yet seized a major conference title. That could change on Thursday.
Still, Tulane and East Carolina are only cosmetic solutions. They’re small band-aids on gashes that require surgery and dozens of stitches to sufficiently heal.
Tulane basketball has become a doormat in C-USA over the last several years. The Green Wave have finished 3-13 in conference play in each of the last three seasons. That’s not a solution. That’s another problem.
Sure, Tulane brings the New Orleans market, which must have looked appealing to commissioner Mike Aresco. Too bad folks from the Big Easy are either watching the Saints, Hornets or doing it up on Bourbon Street. Tulane doesn’t quite make the cut.
Either Louisville or Connecticut is the next Big East bulwark on its way out the door. Its imminent replacement? Desultory demographics. Oh, and another shoddy athletics program to add to its fragile foundation.
The Big East wanted to be America’s conference, and it inadvertently got its wish. Congrats to Conference-USA-renamed—the league all of America is dying to avoid.