Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Conference talk

With all of the talk recently about conference realignment, I thought I'd put in my two cents worth on how I'd like Notre Dame to handle this if the Big East gets raided by the Big Ten during this process.

If the Big East can no longer be a viable football conference, I think Notre Dame should lead the charge to keep the Big East alive as an elite non-football conference, thereby allowing them to remain independent in football.

Here's how I'm seeing this shake out.

First, all of the football members of the Big East will be gone to join other conferences, which takes out Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse, and West Virginia.

That leaves what is still a deep and talented basketball conference, with Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, Villanova, and Notre Dame. Of course, we'll want to add a few schools to the conference - at least four, and possibly as many as eight. And the Atlantic 10 Conference would be a great conference to raid to fill out the new Big East.

In attempting to fill out the conference, there are lots of candidates, but I've come up with a 16 team conference that would fit well together not only athletically, but also in philosophy and academics.

Here it is:

University of Notre Dame Fightin' Irish, Notre Dame, Indiana
Georgetown University Hoyas, Washington, D.C.
Marquette University Golden Eagles, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Villanova University Wildcats, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
George Washington University Colonials, Washington, D.C.
St. Louis University Billikens, St. Louis, Missouri
Duqesne University Dukes, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
DePaul University Blue Demons, Chicago, Illinois
Seton Hall University Pirates, South Orange, New Jersey
St. John's University Red Storm, Queens, New York City, New York
Providence College Friars, Providence, Rhode Island
University of Dayton Flyers, Dayton, Ohio
St. Joseph's University Hawks, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Xavier University Musketeers, Cincinnati, Ohio
Butler University Bulldogs, Indianapolis, Indiana
Loyola University Chicago Ramblers, Chicago, Illinois

I really like this conference, for a lot of reasons.

There is certainly a heavy Catholic influence here, as there are 14 Catholic Universities, and only two private secular Universities. There would be no public universities involved at all. This conference could easily become an all Catholic conference by adding Loyola Maryland and Creighton, and taking out Butler and George Washington.

Also, there are some other colleges that would fit well that would add more secular schools, such as Temple and George Mason.

From an athletics standpoint, this would certainly be a competitive conference. Georgetown, Notre Dame, Villanova, Marquette, Loyola and St. John's can all claim a national title in basketball. We all saw what Butler did this year, nearly winning the title. St. Joseph's, DePaul, Providence, and Seton Hall have made the Final Four, and Xavier and Dayton have made the Elite Eight. George Washington has made the Sweet Sixteen. St. Louis and Duqesne are probably historically the weakest basketball teams in the conference, but they do bring other things to the table.

Academically, this conference would be a superstar. Using U.S. News and World Report rankings as a standard, Notre Dame and Georgetown are in the top 25 academically among national universities. George Washington, Marquette and St. Louis are in the top 100, and Loyola and Duqesne are 119 and 128 respectively. Four other schools make Tier 3 in the rankings. (Say what you will about USN&WR rankings - they are the most widely distributed and comprehensive academic rankings available, so I'm going with them.)

Even the schools that don't appear in the U.S. News National University Rankings are still quality academic institutions. Providence College has been ranked by US News and World Report as one of the top two regional colleges in the Northeastern United States for the past nine consecutive years. Dayton graduated 96% of its student-athletes in 2008, the most of any Atlantic 10 Conference school, and tied for 10th in the nation in such achievement - they are also ranked as one of the top ten Catholic Universities in the country. Butler is #2 in the Midwest Master's Universities rankings (just behind Creighton, another school I considered). Xavier is 3rd. St. Joseph's is 8th among Best Universities-Master’s (North), and has a top 25 business school.

There are three ranked schools among graduate business programs, and 10 of the top 100 law schools in the country.

They are all similarly sized schools, with an average enrollment of 12,500 students, with a low of 4,500 (Butler) and a high of 25,000 (DePaul).

Villanova was once part of the Atlantic 10 before joining the Big East, and there are lots of historical and geographical connections between the schools.

Unlike the current Big East, where there is ongoing tension between the football schools and non-football schools, this conference would be a completely non-football conference. This would allow Notre Dame to continue its independence in football, mush as it does now with its relationship with the current Big East.


As for the football schools currently in the Big East, I'm sure they'll land on their feet. All this talk could be nothing, but if the Dominos start to topple, here's the biggest shakeup I could see happening:

Big Ten (16 schools):
11 current members

Current 10 members

Big XII:
Loses Colorado to Pac-10
Loses Missouri to Big Ten
Adds Arkansas from SEC
Adds TCU from MWC

Loses Arkansas to Big XII
Adds West Virginia

Loses Utah to Pac-10
Loses TCU to Big XII
Adds Boise State
Adds Hawaii

ACC (expands to 16 teams):
Current 12 members
South Florida

It's also possible that the Big Ten will add only one team, which means there may be a much smaller trickle down effect. Perhaps East Carolina or Central Florida will join the Big East if it's Pittsburgh to jump. I could see more shifting if Missouri is the one to jump - The Big XII would try to get Arkansas, then the SEC might try to poach West Virginia, again leaving East Carolina or Central Florida to join the Big East. Or, the Big XII could add Utah instead, with the MWC grabbing Boise State to replace them.

All in all, there are a lot of interesting possibilities for conference realignment as this whole thing shakes down. What are your thoughts?


Clay said...

How does this help us make more money off of football? I thought the whole point of the conference talk was that all of the Big Ten schools make more money than ND on football via the Big Ten network.

Craig said...

The hypothetical replacement conference is strong in basketball but a lot weaker than the Big East in everything else. In particular, it would be a big win for ND athletically if we can hold onto Louisville, in my estimation the best all-around program in the Big East aside from ND.

Wacko said...

Ideally, I'd keep Louisville, Pitt, and UConn for the other sports - but unless they agree to go independent in football, or can convince another major conference to take them only for football (near impossible), it's just not feasible.

I do think that the quality of the Olympic sports programs at many of these schools would be elevated by inclusion in the new Big East conference. The additional funding and exposure will lead to improvements in both facilities and recruiting for the member schools.

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Clay said...

"Notre Dame has no interest in joining a conference over money." I agree that that should be the case, but I don't think Jack or John are of that mindset.

I also wholeheartedly agree that we should only join a conference if it becomes impossible to schedule a full 12 game season without doing so. BCS rules changes or ND's inability to play in a conference championship--and consequent inability to get to the title game--could also "force our hand," to quote Jack. For me, the solution would be to schedule an insanely difficult, take-all-comers schedule, but Jack and John would rather go up the hill to fetch a pail of Tulsa. If you look at the Gug and the plethora of new buildings ("Jefe, do you even know what a plethora is?") popping around campus, if you venture inside the new performing arts building or walk under the new law school arch, I can't see how you would say "man, this stuff is nice and all, but this school needs to make more money off of football."

That said, whenever the conference discussion comes up, all I hear is how much money northwestern is making off of the big ten network and how much we need to get in on that. I'm playing devil's advocate by sayng that your solution doesn't really help the football program, and it's obviously all about football at ND.

Back to scheduling. Coach Chmiel said it best on Mike Frank's power hour. The solution for the football program is silmple--WIN. Even going 12-0 may not be enough, however, if we're playing all three service academies, Utah, Tulsa, and the dregs of the big ten (which now includes Michigan, which is awesome). That doesn't really stack up against an underrated SEC team or another indefeated BCS conference team with a quality OOC win or two. People say you can't play that kind of schedule anymore, but I think it is imperative if we want to WIN--not just play for--national championships. I mAy have digressed a bit.


Thoroughly enjoyed the article and concept of the new Big East. Well done.

Jonathan said...

In all likelihood, the SEC is not going to just roll over and take a middling school. They'll probably raid the ACC for Florida State AND Miami to make sure they stay near the top as far as conference supremacy goes. That, of course, means the ACC is probably going to raid not only the Big East, but also dip into at least some of the school donning your list for the All Catholic League.

This basically assigns all sports that aren't football to a mid-major at best conference.