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The Big East Hits an Iceberg
The Big East Hits an Iceberg
Christopher M Rieman
Published by Chris R
11-28-2012
The Big East Hits an Iceberg

DAYTON (OH) -- To Whom it May Concern, namely DePaul, Marquette, St. John's, Providence, Georgetown, Seton Hall, and Villanova:

I understand that you've been having a Maalox Moment or two, so I'd like to address some of your concerns to help explain your indigestion about the continuing implosion of the Big East Conference -- the home turf for all of your athletic programs. And when I say indigestion, I mean panic attacks about your potential irrelevance from the college basketball landscape. My purpose is not to allay your fears but rather substantiate them. As chaotic and desperate as you think they are, I believe there is sound evidence to suggest your fears don't go far enough. They are ever-present, but they are also victim to the sin of spin. Your depth perception is inside-out, and it's worth my time to provide an outside-in viewpoint to cast a proper light on the changing college landscape.

So here goes.

In a nutshell, you're screwed. Not blindfold-and-cigarette screwed, but short on options and shorter on time. You're Jack Dawson on the Titanic and Celine Dion is clearing her throat. The good news is there are lifeboats. The bad news is you came from steerage and those lifeboats aren't for you. In two hours the ship will founder and the best you can hope for is to use the body of a dead porter as an improvised flotation device until help arrives -- but it's no sure thing they'll find you floating among the debris, alive, worth saving.

In basketball parlance, the Big East is the Titanic, college football is the iceberg, and the A10 is the RMS Carpathia. When the Carpathia trawls the debris field for survivors, folks like yourself aren't in a position of strength to demand hot towels and a wine list. You might have been a passenger on the grandest ocean liner to ever set sail, but that was two hours ago. Nobody cares anymore and the royal crest you've been bear-hugging presently sleeps at the bottom of the north Atlantic. You're like everyone else now, but still cling to the Guggenheim attitude.

Glad we could be there to offer a rescue. Want to know more about our swashbuckling sloop? Consider the following.

The A10 holds all of the face cards and authors their own future. The private A10 schools are not going to retreat from the stability and security of the top basketball-only conference in the country and venture out into shark-infested waters where schools are cannibalizing their own league members, jockeying for position, and lobbying over one another into conferences that are completely unstable geographic nightmares of greed, self-absorption, and academic antagonism.

Do I foresee institutions leaving the dead calm of the A10 to form a new basketball-centric conference amid the unpredictable swells and whitecaps of present-day re-alignment? No way -- not unless its under the terms, conditions, and timetable of the departing A10 members. There is too much chaos and uncertainty to abandon a perfectly good ship and swim for the promise of an uncharted land mass.

Especially not after Butler and VCU were just added to the improving conference. It's hard to imagine Butler and VCU accepting invitations to the A10 without the darnedest assurances from Xavier, Dayton, and St. Louis that a bait-and-switch was not eminent.

The A10 is the safe haven at the moment. League members control their own fates and have a timetable based on a sun dial instead of a stopwatch. Members recognize as a stable league, their strength is in numbers.

The A10 is a league many institutions are intrigued to join -- not parachute out of. More schools want a boarding pass than vacant staterooms to fill. The climate is getting more and more advantageous to the A10 as FBS football implodes the college landscape. Even a traveling salesman understands market forces. The A10 office recognizes their position of strength at the bargaining table. The strength is not absolute, but the leverage is undeniable.

Bernadette McGlade knew this last year when she added the Bulldogs and Rams. Her hand is only that much stronger and strengthening by the hour. The A10 doesn't need the Big East basketball schools to survive. A nice addition? Certainly. A necessity? No. Big East basketball schools may ultimately reach a point however where their fate is determined by others only -- on the timetable of others and at the mercy of others.

None of this is to suggest Big East basketball members compare unfavorably to the brass hats of the A10. Marquette, Villanova, and Georgetown have reached Final Fours in recent years. St. John's is still St. John's. Comparing one Big East school to one A10 school is not the comparison that will re-map the landscape however. Power rests in the hands of those most capable of retreating to their existing ships and staying above the waterline. The A10 does not need a flotilla of supply ships to remain at sea for an extended period. She's stocked, cocked, and water-tight. More than that, all hands on deck believe in her.

The A10 schools have historically operated on a smaller budget than schools in the Big East. Maintaining the status quo is just another day at the office. Members are used to stretching a dollar. The A10 brass -- Xavier, Dayton, St. Louis, Butler, St. Joe, and VCU -- are not going to let dollar signs overcome them by some newfangled Big East Redux 2.0 unless it's more bulletproof than the Merrimack.

Why?

The A10 schools would be assuming 100% of the risk while the Big East schools would be taking on none of the risk. When you have nothing to lose, you can't. But A10 schools have everything to lose because they would be folding an already strong hand for a new deal of unknown cards. A10 schools are happy and content where they are if that's the worst case scenario. That's not the case with the basketball schools in the Big East. The problem with musical chairs is there's never a chair for everyone. Big East schools are killing each other to find a seat at the table -- any table.

You've worked hard to convince yourself that everything is the other way around and when Big East basketball schools say "jump", A10 schools shout "how high?", but its nothing more than a half-baked Baghdad Bob impersonation. Whatever happens will happen because the A10 schools chose it to happen. They hold the decisive veto.

Time is wasting and you've already wasted plenty of that. During the favorable weather when most skippers were tightening up their rigging and caulking their hulls, you only had time to count the checks. You were a grand ship but you're nothing but a memory now. Just a cold, rusty, maritime relic sitting alone with no passengers and no port-of-call.

The A10 might not be the ship of royalty, but she's our ship and certainly worth fighting for. You can denigrate her all you like, but she still floats. Rather than order our sailors and officers to command a new ship under your slanted and corrupted oversight, perhaps it will be us barking the orders and assigning the bunks, on our own trusty boat, warts and all, in a manner and timetable of our choosing.

If and when that happens, Celine will be in rare form. Big East basketball schools won't have a heart that goes on. It will have an ongoing heart attack.
__________________

C. M. Rieman | Publisher | 937.361.4630 | Get the latest here:

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  #1  
By Sea Bass on 11-28-2012, 08:31 AM
One other reason they are royally screwed is that the basketball only schools now have to pay a huge exit fee to escape.
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  #2  
By UACFlyer on 11-28-2012, 08:33 AM
Hope you're right,...

The A10 can't accommodate all seven BE Catholics...but it doesn't have to. LaSalle and Seton Hall are a better fit for the MAAC. Providence and Villanova,....trouble,....they wouldn't like CAA; but the fit isn't bad.

Marquette and DePaul are naturals for the A10. Indeed, the A10 could also handle Villanova. Would the A10 edge out schools like Bona and GW? I doubt it....that wouldn't be nice.

If things get bad enough the A10 doesn't have to be in a position to invite anyone. Rather, the A10 can wait until one or more BE Catholics applies for admission. To my mind, that would be the best scenario.

With our solid commissioner, no doubt she is well connected with her AD counterparts at the BE schools.

UAC
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  #3  
By MD Flyer Pride on 11-28-2012, 08:37 AM
Well done, Chris!
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  #4  
By FlyingArrow on 11-28-2012, 09:31 AM
UACFlyer, La Salle is already in the A-10.
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  #5  
By UACFlyer on 11-28-2012, 10:12 AM
LaSalle...

Originally Posted by FlyingArrow View Post
UACFlyer, La Salle is already in the A-10.
I know that, Arrow,....my intent wasn't clear and my narrative muddled. What I had in mind was removing current A10 schools to make room for BE schools.

What I should have said was that the A10's LaSalle and Bona, and the BE's Seton Hall, are better fits for the MAAC. Perhaps Providence also.

I was trying to come up with an option that provides space in the A10 for the stronger BE Catholics,....while providing for the weaker BE Catholics....and at the same time removing a few A10 schools that fit better elsewhere.

Having said all that...I don't think it will happen. No school wants to downgrade; LaSalle and Bona would not like the idea....SH and Providence would go nuts.

The A10 is going to lose Temple, Charlotte and quite likely UMass. That makes space in the future. In my opinion, what would be best for the A10 would be defection from the group of seven by one or more of the BE schools. The A10 would benefit from batter balance, i.e., mid-west additions like MU and DU. Butler helped...but the conference is still heavily weighted toward the east coast, in my opinion.

Being a Philly native, I know LaSalle well, incl the fact that they are in the A10.
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  #6  
By CE80 on 11-28-2012, 10:16 AM
To me the key to this is what was VCU's and Butler's deal when they joined the A10. Chris seems to think the VCU and Butler got assurances from UD, X, SLU, etc. that they are not going anywhere. My concern is that VCU and Butler leave. Did the A10 get any assurances from VCU and Butler that they won't bolt for seemingly greener pastures?
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  #7  
By MD Flyer Pride on 11-28-2012, 10:40 AM
Originally Posted by UACFlyer View Post
What I should have said was that the A10's LaSalle and Bona, and the BE's Seton Hall, are better fits for the MAAC. Perhaps Providence also.
Don't forget... the Bonnies beat Xavier to win the A-10 tourney last year. Also, they nearly beat Florida State in the 1st round of the NCAA tourney.

The only real issue I have is with Fordham. They have underachieved for an extended period of time AND they lack the facilities.
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  #8  
By Bat'71 on 11-28-2012, 12:01 PM
I know that sense of Schadenfreude regarding the BE Catholics feels good, but I wouldn't count them out yet, either. While the BE BB members are now on the ropes and getting Marquette and DePaul would be coups if the A-10 could land them, it is far from assured. Sure the bloom is off the rose as far as BE BB and their sweet TV deals are concerned, but I think the reports of their demise as a BB force is premature. 'Nova, G'town and the Johnies still retain some cachet and, if the BE Catholics can hang together, they could still lure some A-10 teams away to form a 10 or 12 school conference. I'm not saying they'd be successful at doing so if the BE totally implodes, but I wouldn't be rubbing their collective noses in it just yet.
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  #9  
By Gem City on 11-28-2012, 12:19 PM
This is also an opportunity for the A-10 to clean house. It’s time for the stronger A-10 programs (VCU, Butler, Xavier, Dayton, St. Louis etc.) to start putting some pressure on the weaker programs in the league to improve and invest in their own programs. It’s time to start setting some minimum standards for all programs in the league as a condition of league membership.

For too long, their have been programs in this league that have shown little interest or leadership in trying to improve their programs. They have slid by with poor coaches playing in outdated facilities and recruiting on a shoe string budgets. There has always been a feeling of the haves and have not’s in this league. Bottom line, it’s time to tell the basement dwellers of this league to get their acts together or get out.

The three areas I would demand some kind of league consensus:

1. A minimum seating capacity or some kind of minimum standard for your home court.

It’s time for Fordham, LaSalle, George Washington, Duquesne, St. Bonnie and even St. Joe’s to invest in or upgrade their home courts. Without question, the worst of these facilities is Tom Gola and Rose Hill. It’s an absolute joke that these programs aspire to be high major D-I programs in such ridiculous high school gyms. There is no coincidence that the majority of these programs have finished at the bottom of this league for numerous years. Yes, there are exceptions (St. Joe’s) but I would argue that you can not maintain any level of success playing in such poor facilities. St. Joe’s has an exceptional coach that allows the program to over come many of their short comings. St. Bonnie made a run last year because they hit the lottery in developing an under recruited player into the A-10 player of the year. St. Bonnie will not be able to maintain that level of success. When Martelli leaves St. Joe’s, I believe you will see that program fall quickly.

I realize St. Joe’s just invested in their facility which is nice, but it was a band-aid. The facility is still a joke. Tom Gola and Rose Hill are absolute jokes. These facilities ultimately need to be replaced. Duquesne, St. Bonnie, and GW should be encouraged to invest in major renovations to their facilities. It’s time to demand these improvements.

2. A minimum basketball budget.

The life blood of every program is recruiting. Coaches need to be able to travel outside of the greater Pittsburgh and Philadelphia area to land the best players. You need to pay higher salaries to attract top coaches and assistant coaches. You need to invest money to assure these players have the resources available to graduate. It all cost money. There are too many programs being run on shoe string budgets.

3. A minimum marketing budget to increase fan bases and improve product image. This may also include a minimum attendance standard.

How many times have you watched an A-10 tournament game and you could count the number of fans on one hand? This league has too many programs with virtually no fan bases. Too many A-10 programs are failing to build any kind of fan bases. You have to create a product and brand that people are willing to pay to see. You want to improve the conferences TV contract? You have to show TV executives you have a viable fan base that is willing to watch games. I find it sad that the largest groups of fans at the A-10 tournament are from Dayton, Xavier and St. Louis. These are the fans that have to travel the furthest distance to be at the games.
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  #10  
By Medford on 11-28-2012, 12:36 PM
Gem, I often see the Bonnies listed as teams that "need to step up" and I think the only reason was the demise following the Welding scandal. For most of UD's existance in the A-10, the Bonnies have been a steady middle of the pack to top of the pack performer, save the years they spent recovering from the welding scandal. While SBU is "in the middle of nowhere" they have pretty solid support, and its always a tough place to play. They may not be a "sexy" team, but the A-10 could do much, much worse than a solid plugger of a program that SBU has been for much of UD's existance in the A-10. heck, they may have as many NCAA apperances as UD over that same stretch.

Saint Joe's just completed a full revamp of their arena. I'm unaware of the current capacity, but they've made a commitment.

However, they do need to start setting guidelines/minimums so that they can enforce those things if neccessarry down the road.
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  #11  
By UACFlyer on 11-28-2012, 01:23 PM
St. Joes...

Originally Posted by Medford View Post
Gem, I often see the Bonnies listed as teams that "need to step up" and I think the only reason was the demise following the Welding scandal. For most of UD's existance in the A-10, the Bonnies have been a steady middle of the pack to top of the pack performer, save the years they spent recovering from the welding scandal. While SBU is "in the middle of nowhere" they have pretty solid support, and its always a tough place to play. They may not be a "sexy" team, but the A-10 could do much, much worse than a solid plugger of a program that SBU has been for much of UD's existance in the A-10. heck, they may have as many NCAA apperances as UD over that same stretch.

Saint Joe's just completed a full revamp of their arena. I'm unaware of the current capacity, but they've made a commitment.

However, they do need to start setting guidelines/minimums so that they can enforce those things if neccessarry down the road.
St. Joes seating capacity is still small, ~ 4000,....but the school made a major committment...about $20 million as i recall,....building new practice/training facilities, coaches offices, amenities for the press and fans.

FU and LU did nothing remotely comparable.
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  #12  
By Bat'71 on 11-28-2012, 02:16 PM
St. Joe's has made a solid financial commitment to improve their facilities, but it is a small school (not unlike Butler) with a rabid fan base. While the BB arena is relatively small, it is right-sized for the school and it isn't substandard like Rose Hill or the GW and LaSalle facilities. If Fordham can get an arrangement with the Barclay Center, similar to what St. John's has with the Garden, they should be alright as far as having a state-of-the-art arena goes. While the GW facility is also problematic, neither they nor Rhoddy or UMass (which seem to have adequate facilities) seem to be able to attract much enthusiasm from their fan base. I don't know what the answer is for some of these A-10 East Coast programs (excepting St. Joe's)...maybe they just aren't meccas of BB. Recall, that the A-10 had to move the Conference playoffs out of Philly because, notwithstanding the fact that three schools were situated there and GW and Fordham were only a short train ride away, they couldn't fill half of the arena? That isn't conducive to getting Conference playoffs on National TV or landing lucrative broadcast rights. Hopefully with the additions of Butler and VCU and more A-10 alumni in the NYC area, attendance will improve for the A-10 Conference playoffs, but if not, the A-10 should move it back to the Midwest where there are true College BB fans.
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  #13  
By MD Flyer Pride on 11-28-2012, 02:38 PM
GW just spent a cool $43 million to renovate its facilities only 2 years ago. see below...

http://foggybottom.wusa9.com/content...er-renovations
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  #14  
By Bat'71 on 11-28-2012, 02:50 PM
Didn't know that about GW, MD, thanks. Is that new this year...it looks pretty nice; now they have to fill the stands.
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  #15  
By MD Flyer Pride on 11-28-2012, 02:59 PM
I believe the renovations were finished 2 years ago. I have not been there since the renovations. Looks much nicer!
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