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Perhaps the best scenario for everyone is a fresh start

As I write this, we haven't yet heard what the next school will be to move from the Big East to the ACC. The presumption is either UConn or Louisville (although there are rumors of UConn and Louisville and Cincinnati all leaving for the ACC).

Either one might be enough to radically change the Big East. One rumor flying around is that after either UConn or Louisville declares that they are heading to the ACC, the remaining Catholic schools, having a 7-3 edge in voting rights, might vote to dissolve the Big East entirely. I don't see that happening, but I do think that perhaps major reform is needed.

One one hand, the basketball schools know that they're getting more money by being aligned with football schools. However, the future alignment of the football league (and for that matter the basketball league) has been distorted so badly that it makes very little sense. It doesn't even have any core geographic area anymore.

The future football league consists of ...

... two or three teams in the northeast (UConn?, Temple, Navy)

... one or two in the "midwest" (Louisville?, Cincinnati)

... two in the southeast (South Florida, Central Florida)

... three in the south (Memphis, SMU, Houston)

... one in the southwest (San Diego State)

... and one in the northwest (Boise State)

I'm sorry, but this is not a football league that is likely to get a massive TV contract, or anything close to what it was offered before when it still had Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Rutgers. It also has no strong connection to the "Big East." At least half of the football teams are former Conference USA members. Only one (Temple) is an original Big East football member (and they were originally kicked out in 2004). Connecticut didn't even join FBS until 2004. I don't think TV networks are going to have much faith that a football league that is so disjointed has much hope of staying together long-term.

It may be time for the "Catholic seven" that remain to sever ties with football. I do not see the seven non-football members voting to end the Big East. I do, however, see one possible scenario that might work out reasonably well for everyone involved in this mess.

1. The seven non-football members vote that the Big East will not sponsor football as a league sport in the future. Admittedly, this could be reversed as soon as the incoming members arrive, but that might not happen if ...

2. The seven non-football members vote that any schools that are either currently a member of the Big East that sponsor FBS football (Cincinnati, UConn/L'ville, USF, Temple) or incoming schools that sponsor FBS football (Navy, UCF, Memphis, SMU, Houston, BSU, SDSU) may leave the Big East, either with no penalty or some smaller reduced exit fee.

3. Boise State and San Diego State return to the Mountain West Conference.

4. Navy returns to its status as an FBS independent.

5. The remaining FBS schools form a separate conference that sponsors football and is also a respectable basketball conference.If we assume that UConn goes to the ACC, and the remaining FBS schools from the Big East grab a few more old friends, we have a "new Conference USA" that is a reasonably geographically sensible conference:

West: Houston, SMU, Tulsa*, Memphis, Southern Miss*, Tulane*

East: Cincinnati, Louisville, Temple, East Carolina*, Central Florida, South Florida

6. The remaining Big East teams (the seven non-football schools) add Duquesne, Dayton, Xavier, Butler, and St. Louis, becoming an east/midwest basketball-focused league (still called the Big East).

7. The Big East Conference and West Coast Conference (which adds Seattle and Denver to its lineup) collaborate on scheduling and on a new television contract. They provide a network with excellent coast-to-coast basketball programming but they still keep reasonable-sized conferences (12 teams each). They also have a presence in many major media markets, including New York, Philadelphia, DC, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, St. Louis, Denver, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

8. The "new Conference USA" and the Mountain West also collaborate on scheduling and a new television contract, receiving a better deal than either one could by themselves (and similarly having a coast-to-coast setup).

9. All four conferences collaborate on made-for-TV early-season basketball tournaments and non-conference games in basketball (and possibly other Olympic sports too).

The basic benefits:

All of the football teams have a home to go to (Navy will survive well enough as an independent, as they have for their entire existence);

All of the non-football schools have a basketball-first home and a competitive conference;

All of the conferences are reasonably geographically sensible;

All of the conferences benefit from collaboration with each other, gaining exposure, money, quality opponents, and (hopefully) stability;

All of the conferences are kept at reasonable sizes (12 schools each).

I know that the non-football schools of the Big East may make a bit less money without football ... but at some point the money is arguably not worth it. It is also possible that the collaboration with the West Coast Conference, while it may not replace all of the money, may provide some help, as well as long-term stability (which itself is worth something, not only to the members themselves but to TV networks).

How likely is this to happen? Probably not very likely. But if it did, all of the schools might be better off than they would be in a disorganized geographic mess of a conference.

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