Big East not looking to expand into footprint states right away

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Because the Big East doesn’t care about football, of couse.

They care about basketball and holding their tournament in the Mecca of all basketball arenas, Madison Square Garden. And I get it — there are few things more exciting than the Big East tourney in the Garden — but even Big East basketball is now suffering because of the inability of commissioner John Marinatto to do what’s best for the football side of things.

And football is the breadwinner.

If the Big East cared about football at all, Central Florida and Houston would already be, or on their way to becoming, football-only members of the Big East. Conference realignment has taught us that being proactive is the only way to come close to guaranteeing your conference won’t be picked apart like a carcass  — and that’s not limited to expansion. Fortifying and raising exit fees; updating television contracts; revisiting revenue distributions — these are items crucial to maintaining long-term stability.

Marinatto tinkered around with Villanova for a year trying to figure out a way to get the Wildcats up to Division 1-A.

Now that Syracuse and Pittsburgh have departed for the ACC, not to mention that every other football member will jump at will for the next best opportunity, the Big East is left trying to scrape the bottom of the non-automatic qualifying pool. And, still, Central Florida and Houston are nowhere to be found atop the short list of candidates to replace two tradition-rich (and one founding) members.

Why? Because the Big East doesn’t want to look beyond states where conference members already reside. Case in point: South Florida president Judy Genshaft, who spoke in front of the Hillsborough County legislative delegation today, and said the Big East is looking to get away from states like Florida and Texas when it comes to inviting new members.

I am not stopping any university from coming in,” Genshaft said about the rumor USF was blocking UCF’s entry into the Big East. “What is happening is the league, or the conference, now is looking at schools and they have looked very much at schools that are not in any of the states that are represented by the Big East schools right now. The ones that they’re looking at right now, they do not sit in any state that the Big East schools currently are in.”

Sorry, Central Florida; sorry, Houston. Your fertile recruiting grounds, competitive football programs and guaranteed once-a-year trips to Florida and Texas just aren’t the top priority right now.

“It will be interesting if the SEC would open up their league for USF (or ACC),” added Genshaft. “But that’s not the way it happens. It’s very interesting. There are other leagues also but that’s not the way these leagues work.”

But the Big East isn’t like the “other leagues”. Not even close.

Frankly, it’s astounding that a gentleman’s agreement not to look in-state right away is even a criteria. Pickin’s are slim for the Big East and the conference is getting picked apart. Go out and get the best available program(s) for the conference’s bottom line and future stability. That should be their only criteria, and the fact that the Big East hasn’t done that already is why two prominent members left and why more want to leave.

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If the Big East had done what’s best for football over the past year, it may not have prevented Pitt and Syracuse from leaving, but it would have given the conference a better shot to survive.

Now, it’s hanging on life support.