SOUTH BEND IN - SEPTEMBER 04: The "Golden Dome" is seen on the campus of Notre Dame University before a game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Purdue Boilermakers at Notre Dame Stadium on September 4 2010 in South Bend Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The Hartford Courant's John Altavilla is none too pleased that, in his mind, Notre Dame is the party responsible for the women's Big East Tournament not considering Uncasville, CT's Mohegan Sun Arena for its host site. In his eyes it's the perfect site, well suited for other events. So why not the Women's Big East Tournament? Because it allows gambling on site as well. This fact, according to Altavilla, does not sit well with Notre Dame, and therefore does not sit well with the other private catholic schools that, in his mind, just do whatever Notre Dame says. He writes:
Let's put it this way: If the Big East wants to make money running its tournament, it can do so more easily at the Mohegan Sun.
So why has the vote to go there been so often delayed or thwarted?
Let's try to figure this out...
What schools in the Big East make money for the conference?
The football schools: UConn, West Virginia, Syracuse, Cincinnati, South Florida, Louisville, Pittsburgh and Rutgers.
What school in the Big East, in all sports but football, also plays football at a major Division I level and is a catholic institution?
What football program in the Big East, even though it will not play football within the league, is among the most famous in the history of college football, so famous its has its own television contract even though it's now just an average program.
What football program would the Big East love to add to its football roster, even though it should already be but chooses not to be, should it decide again to expand beyond Texas Christian University, which joins in 2012.
Which of the Catholic institutions with voting rights on conference matters would the Big East most likely defer - on matters like moving a women's tournament to a gambling/entertainment facility that the majority of other members apparently strongly favor - because they don't want to make them so angry they decide never to play football for them?
St. John's, Marquette, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Villanova, Providence or DePaul?
His conclusion is even stronger:
Here's the point. If this is the case, and these sources say it seems to be, the Big East is doing itself a major disservice to allow a school that insists on calling its own shots, within the confines of a conference its doesn't fully participate in, in such matters. Why should the Big East care what Notre Dame thinks about where the women's basketball tournament should be played. Notre Dame knows where to make a buck. Why shouldn't the Big East make one, too.
These are questions worth considering: With Notre Dame not being a full member, and withholding it's most profitable and valuable asset from the Big East, just what is the value for the Big East in having it in the conference for the rest of its sports? Additionally, what role should Notre Dame be allowed to play in decision making since it doesn't play football in the Big East? Mr. Altavilla might be overstating the value the Big East would see in having the women's Big East Tournament at the Mohegan Sun. And, honestly, for as good as UConn is in women's basketball, I'm not exactly in love with the idea of playing the conference tournament annually in its backyard.
The ultimate question is, if there is a solid voting block that simply lines up behind Notre Dame at the expense of the football playing schools, can the conference survive in its current configuration? Another angle to consider: would the football schools effectively break Notre Dame's supposed hold on the conference by moving Villanova up to FBS football and the Big East? If it could do so, would it be worth it? One would think once a Big East football member, Villanova would vote with the football schools as a block.
This situation will be worth monitoring as expansion and the next television contract approach.