Sunday 03rd March 2024,
The Hoop Doctors

Rest in Peace, Big East Conference

September 20, 2011 – Kevin Burke

Remember this from 1996?

Or this from 2009?

How about this from March of this year?

Those are just some of best moments in the history of the Big East tournament. In my humble opinion, it’s the best conference tournament in the land, which is helped by the fact that it takes place at Madison Square Garden. That makes sense since it’s also the best conference in America as well. As a graduate of the University of Connecticut, let me tell you, I took a great deal of pride in bragging about how the Big East boasted the best teams.

Well, you can kiss all of that goodbye. Over the weekend, the conference just took several steps backwards and is now hanging on by a thread. Both Syracuse and Pitt applied for, and were granted membership to the Atlantic Coast Conference. For the better part of the past two decades or so, UConn, Syracuse, Pitt, Georgetown, Villanova and St. John’s have been the best schools in the conference and perennially ranked in the top 25 in the nation. So with news of Syracuse and Pitt jumping ship, that means that two of the six best schools in the conference are no longer.

That was a very tough pill for me to swallow. Even while I was watching Floyd Mayweather knockout Victor Ortiz, followed by his classic confrontation with Larry Merchant in the ring on Saturday night, as well as enjoying week 2 of the NFL yesterday, in the back of my mind I was still thinking about how terrible of a blow the Big East Conference just took. Basketball is in my DNA so this kind of thing has an impact on me. But even after hearing that Syracuse and Pitt were leaving, I thought to myself, “It is what it is, but UConn better not pull that same stunt.”

Then, yesterday afternoon, news broke that UConn was “actively pursuing ACC membership.” My day was never the same. I couldn’t believe the news. UConn is the unquestioned flagship program of the Big East and the only school in the country with three National Championships since 1999. As I type this, the ACC has not yet admitted UConn but they would be fools not to so I’ll continue under the assumption that it will happen. For all intents and purposes, this is the end of the Big East Conference and I am giving the eulogy.

I have always felt as if the ACC was the most glamorous (not the best) conference in the land. That has to do with the fact that college basketball’s darling, Duke, and Michael Jordan’s alma mater, North Carolina, are a part of the conference. Sprinkle in the fact that Dick Vitale is madly in love with Duke and the conference as a whole, and it makes it so that the country has a love affair with the ACC. So if Syracuse, Pitt and UConn had to go somewhere else, I guess it makes sense for them to go there. And this isn’t the first time, of course, that schools have left the Big East for the ACC. In 2004, Virginia Tech and Miami did the same thing, followed by Boston College a year later. But I thought those were just isolated incidents.

Over the course of the past year or so, we have seen a seismic shift in the landscape of intercollegiate conferences. The PAC-10 is now the PAC-12. Big 12 teams are now part of the Big 10. But those were primarily done because of football programs. The PAC-12, Big 12 and Big 10 are football conferences in my opinion. The Big East and ACC are definitely basketball conferences and we haven’t seen a shake-up quite like this in a very long time, if ever.

Because of the national love affair for the ACC, it made me love the Big East even more and despise the ACC to a degree. However, now I have no choice but to embrace it. Taking my allegiance to UConn out of the picture, I can certainly understand why they are seeking entrance. After Syracuse and Pitt left, they had to make sure that the athletic program was “keeping up with the Jones’ “, so to speak. No to mention the fact that the ACC has better football programs than the Big East anyways.

There have been rumors for quite some time that the NCAA was moving towards forming a handful of “superconferences.” This is proof. Even with Georgetown, Villanova and St. John’s left as the best programs in the Big East, the league can’t survive. It was almost as if UConn said to the rest, “save yourselves while you can.” I’m not sure how much longer the Big East can or will hold on, as Rutgers is rumored to be next up to seek admission to the ACC.

Timing of these schools officially joining the ACC has not been determined as of yet, but The Big East tournament just became almost insignificant in my eyes and the ACC is now clearly the best conference. But I get it. It’s all about money. Everything is about money. I just wish there was a better way for those involved to get paid without destroying the fabric of college basketball.

If you’re looking for your everyday, predictable basketball talk, then go somewhere else, because Kevin Burke of The Kevin Burke Project brings provocative, thought provoking content about basketball as only he can. Kevin also hosts The Hoop Doctors weekly podcast show, which you can subscribe to for free on iTunes. Follow Kevin on Twitter and Facebook

Like this Article? Share it!