Monday, February 1, 2010

If Pitt Leaves – What Happens to Marquette?

Following up from yesterday’s manifesto, what does all of this Big 11 expansion talk mean for MU? Let’s run through a couple of the scenarios:

Scenario #1: Pitt Stays in the Big East

What happens to the Big East: Nothing, the behemoth stays together

What happens to MU: Business as usual and us MU fans go back to wringing our hands over our lack of frontcourt size

Long term forecast: The forecast is partly sunny. MU has benefitted greatly from joining the Big East, but the specter of a breakup still looms. Remaining in the Big East is our best bet to one day win a national title (hey, I can dream)

Scenario #2a: Big 11 steals Pitt, and only Pitt. Big East remains a BCS football automatic qualifier

What happens to the Big East: Big East replaces Pittsburgh with a moderately acceptable candidate – likely Memphis, less likely East Carolina or Central Florida

What happens to MU immediately: After some nervous moments, it’s mostly business as usual as a Big East member in the near term

Long term forecast after the shift: Late afternoon, extremely humid with some clouds developing over the western horizon. In other words for you non-Plains dwellers, some big storms could be coming. Steve Cottingham has several contingency plans available as the Big East is considerably less stable

Scenario #2b: Big 11 steals Pitt, and only Pitt. Big East loses its automatic BCS football bid after a couple of years

What happens to the Big East: The Big East football playing schools have to accept the new reality of college sports – they are firmly in the have-not category for football. There are many people predicting a catastrophic domino effect, but they are missing one big consideration. Where would they go? The Big 11, ACC, SEC and Big XII would all have 12 members. There is little reason for these conferences to expand to 13 or 14 members because all remaining Big East football teams have major warts, be it academics, athletic competitiveness, location or tiny fan base. West Virginia and Syracuse would be best positioned to make a move, but where would they go?

What happens to MU immediately: See #2a but with infinitely more hand wringing

Long term forecast after the shift: Tornado Watch – total destruction of the Big East is unlikely but within the realm of possibility. MU’s ceiling of achievement will be lowered considerably – think maxing out in the Sweet 16 or Elite 8

Scenario #3: Big 11 steals Pitt, and then either or both of Rutgers and Syracuse

What happens to the Big East: More than likely dissolves for football. The remaining football schools would have several unsavory choices:

1) Beg and/or bribe another major conference to take them

2) Remain in a 6 team Big East w/o a BCS bid for football

3) Go independent

4) Join mid-major conference for football only (MAC, C-USA, Sun Belt)

5) Leave the Big East completely for a mid-major conference

6) Do what Virginia Tech did and find a political ally in the Senate to force you into another major conference

7) Beg Villanova and/or Georgetown to bump football up to Division 1 – highly unlikely considering the cost and time needed to accomplish

8) Drop football – could seriously happen after a few years

What happens to MU immediately:

Ideal – MU joins a Catholic basketball conference. This has been discussed often, but it could consist of any combination of MU, DePaul, Notre Dame, SLU, Creighton, Xavier, Dayton, Georgetown, Villanova, St. Joe’s, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Providence.

Worst Case – Big East stays together in a mangled form. This would be reminiscent of C-USA circa 2006 (hell, C-USA now). Everyone would be waiting for the other shoe to drop

Long term forecast after the shift:

Ideal – This conference would likely be very stable without any football concerns. The conference would still have enough cache to garner attention on ESPN, though at a reduced rate than we currently experience. It would be the A-10 on steroids and it would be possible, though more difficult, for MU to compete for a national title

Worst Case – Recruiting suffers as the competition plays off MU’s “dead man walking” conference. It will become much more difficult to retain quality coaches. This scenario probably wouldn’t last long, but it would set MU back several years

Final Summary

Who knows what will come of this, the first domino hasn't even fallen yet, if it will even fall. Regardless, MU has experienced it best run of success since the Al years as a result of its Big East affiliation. Any threat to that affiliation must be taken seriously because our success is fragile - we have no football, a tiny alumni base and no natural recruiting base.

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