Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011

Realignment and Marquette

By Nicole
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Last week Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced they were leaving the Big East for the ACC. These moves are football-baesd, but they look like they're going to have lasting effects throughout all NCAA atheletics.

Because these realignments are about football - the biggest revenue producer in NCAA sports - schools like Marquette, who don't have a football team, look like they could be left out as conferences are formed and reconfigured.

One option that is being discussed by Marquette is to form a Catholic basketball conference. It seems to be heavily weighted towards Jesuit schools, but there are quite a few Catholic schools who have upper-level basketball programs, but don't field a FCS football team.

Marquette, St. Louis University, Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John's, Providence, DePaul and Notre Dame are scheduled to have a meeting this week to decide their own fate in the changing landscape.

The J-S article links to a New York Daily News article that points out that athletic directors at many of these schools are not versed in the corporate machinations and big-time stakes that are being raised right now in college athletics. Teams are scrambling to make sure they aren't the ones left out.

Leaving the Big East and forming their own conference could be incredibly costly for these teams - the conference will charge $5 million for leaving and requires a lengthy notice - but failing to set themselves up for the future could prove even more expensive for the schools.

A relgious-based conference wouldn't be ground-breaking. The West Coast Conference is comprised entirely of faith-based, private institutions.

The WCC is comprised of BYU, Gonzaga, Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, University of Portland, St. Mary's College, University of San Diego, University of San Francisco and Santa Clara.

BYU is a Church of Latter-Day Saints school. Pepperdine is affiliated with the Churches of Christ. Gonzaga, Loyola Marymount, the University of San Francisco and Santa Clara are all Jesuit. University of Portland, St. Mary's and University of San Diego are Catholic schools.

Gonzaga is a bit of a basketball powerhouse out of that conference and rumors are being floated that this new conference may try to lure them into joining.

Another conference option is to split the basketball teams from the Big East and more their own conference. Where March Madness used to seem to be weighted in favor of BCS schools, in the past six years, a quarter of the 24 Final Four spots have gone to schools that don't have FBS football. In the 15 years before that, there had been just three such teams.

The lack of a veteran presence to lead these basketball schoools could be an issue. They've never been players on a national scale and none of the ADs have the resume to place them at the top of the heap. Without someone to push their agenda on a national scale, they could have a hard time asserting themselves and getting the type of support and TV contracts that would be necessary for a new basketball league to survive.

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