In case you have been living under a rock for the past week, Syracuse and Pittsburgh opted to leave for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Other Big East teams may not be far behind. The Big East’s future is up in the air, and that’s not good for Marquette, a school without a football team.
Football is driving all these changes, so Marquette and the six other non-Division I-football schools in the Big East are in wait-and-see mode.
Here are five questions concerning the shake-up in the Big East and what it means for Marquette.
1. On a scale of 1-10, how much will the break-up of the current Big East hurt Marquette basketball’s prestige on a national level?
Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: A four. All signs point to “football schools” one day breaking off for good, and that will hurt Marquette. The Golden Eagles will never have it as good as they did with the “old” Big East, but that’s just a sad reality of it all. However, Marquette is still Marquette. Recruiting is on the rise, the team has enjoyed recent success and the group of schools in the conference will be competitive, regardless of where everyone winds up.
Anonymous Eagle: Since the Pac-12 seems to be standing still now, which might end up keeping the Big XII together, we’re going to have to go with “3.” Losing Pitt and Syracuse is troublesome, but regardless of whether the football schools stick around or the non-football schools spin off into their own conference, the conference that Marquette is in going forward will be respected as a great basketball conference.
Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: Two. Hate to admit this but Marquette’s prestige is very localized to Milwaukee and … maybe Chicago. We are not in the 70s anymore. As much as we like to portray ourselves and our history as a major part of the basketball landscape, should Marquette basketball cease to exist altogether, only a small percentage of the country would mourn our loss. All that being said, the “old” Big East was greater than anything that will be drawn up in the coming weeks, so Marquette will lose a little bit of its prestige.
Tess Quinlan, Marquette TV: Four. Marquette has been a nationally known program long before the Warriors became the Golden Eagles and joined the Big East in 2005. That is not going to go away anytime soon. During this year’s NCAA tournament, the Big East had 11 teams competing for the championship. Marquette and the eventual champion, UConn, were the only two teams that made it to the Sweet Sixteen. While the clout of the Big East might have gotten them into the tournament, Marquette won, not the influence of a conference.
Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: Two. Overall Marquette should be fine. Ideally, Marquette ends up with the rejects of the Big 12 (Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Baylor), in which case it could be in a similar position to what it had with Pittsburgh, Syracuse, UConn, and Rutgers. If it ends up in an all basketball conference then it will feature some of the better teams in the country anyways (Georgetown, Villanova, Notre Dame, St. John’s – all teams that made the NCAA Tournament in 2010-11).
2. Would you rather Marquette join a combination of the Big XII and Big East leftovers (20 teams, 12 basketball) or branch out to a basketball-only conference?
Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Without question, a basketball-only conference. It may not be the money maker right away and competition wouldn’t be as great as a merger, but it’s inevitable that football schools will one day break off, leaving Marquette (and the non-football schools) hanging by a thread each year. The teams seemingly are in order for the non-basketball schools to make the jump and it would show leadership from these schools. These schools can not wait for everything else to fall into place. They need something lined up, even if they can’t act on it until teams officially leave. The time is now to make the jump.
Anonymous Eagle: Before Tuesday night’s news that the Pac-12 would stay at 12, seemingly keeping the Big 12 together, we would have said the mashup. The opportunity to replace Pitt and Syracuse with Kansas and Kansas State on a basketball schedule is very appealing. But the news stories discussing that merger sounded an awful lot like it would be only the football schools merging. So, while a merged Big East/Big 12 conference would easily be the better option, it might be in the best interests of Marquette to round up the Big East non-football schools and pay tribute to Dave Gavitt’s memory by organizing a new non-football conference.
Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: Basketball-only conference, no doubt about it. Look, barring a catastrophic change in the American public, football will always be No. 1. So even if the Big East survives and the merger with some Big-12 schools occur, football will be the main priority. Why be in a conference where you are a second-class citizen? I’d rather make less TV money now than have to go through this all over again in four years. Let’s get it over with now and move on from there.
Tess Quinlan, Marquette TV: I would rather Marquette join the Big-12/Big East Conference. In terms of basketball, it would be positive to stay in a conference with perennial powerhouses like Georgetown and Villanova. Other sports, such as lacrosse and soccer, would benefit from Marquette staying in the Big East. In the financial short term, it makes no sense for Marquette to leave the Big East. Conference USA’s exit fee was $500,000, while the Big East’s exit fee is $5 million. For only six years, Marquette would get no return on its investment.
Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: The joint venture with remaining Big 12 schools could leave Marquette open to more realignment yet again as it would put Marquette in with greedy football schools. But it could create the more prestigious conference – depending upon what basketball-only schools would join the conference. Either situation could be great, but the joint venture with the Big 12 would keep Marquette’s conference prestige to a similar level it is now.
3. Assuming Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia, Connecticut and Rutgers are gone, which school does Marquette need to stick with to soften the blow from the Big East break-up?
Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Georgetown and Villanova. Aside from their large East coast markets, both schools are perennial tournament teams that will keep whatever conference Marquette winds up in legitimate. There were rumors of the two
teams bolting for the ACC as non-football schools, something that would crush Marquette. Assuming the basketball-only conference happens, keeping these two schools would make them and Marquette the cornerstones of this new conference.
Anonymous Eagle: There’s no one school that Marquette needs to partner with, and that’s not a good thing. The most likely candidates are probably DePaul, which is useless to Marquette, and Notre Dame, who is so busy counting their NBC money that they probably haven’t really noticed anything happening yet. We think that Marquette’s best bet is to create a unified front of the eight non-football schools. If you have to pick one of those to align with, it would have to be our brothers in faith at Georgetown.
Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: Georgetown, Villanova, Notre Dame and St. John’s. Sticking with that core of Catholic schools is the basis for a great basketball conference. Sure you can tack on Providence, DePaul and Seton Hall, but the first four is what truly matters. Those schools have the most history, the most talent, and the greatest following. Give me media markets in New York, Philly and D.C. and we have the makings of a viable moneymaker and of a beautiful friendship.
Tess Quinlan, Marquette TV: Excluding Villanova, Notre Dame, and Georgetown, all of which have football teams at some level, Marquette needs to stick with St. John’s. The Red Storm is the only team left that made the NCAA Tournament and can compete at the same level as Marquette. St. Johns, whose success is relatively new, will need to associate with a team that has long-term credibility in order to establish themselves as a national power.
Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: Georgetown. It is arguably the most prestigious basketball institution in the Big East. The Georgetown brand of basketball brings instant credibility. And whether or not it actually has anything to do with it, Marquette’s fight song is “Ring out Ahoya.” Why not stick by the team that you can “ring” out?
4. True or false: Marquette’s recruiting will take a hit because of realignment.
Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: False. While current recruits may be nervous as rumors swirl around the internet, none of which sound good for Marquette, coach Buzz Williams is surely working to keep them calm. The Big East is a clear selling point for recruits, but more so is Buzz’s commitment to winning, his fast-paced style of play and the prospects of one day making it to the NBA. Because of its already-talented roster, excellent facilities and track record (NCAA Tournament berths in each of the last six seasons), Marquette should not miss a beat on the recruiting trail.
Anonymous Eagle: False. We’re not saying that Buzz isn’t busy putting out fires right now; we’re sure he is. But kids seem to love Buzz and want to play for him. That’s not going to change, and it might actually improve if DJO or Jae Crowder are taken in the 2012 NBA Draft in June, giving Buzz three straight drafts with players selected. John Calipari was able to get recruits to go to Memphis and an otherwise terrible Conference USA. Whatever Marquette ends up in will definitely be better than that situation.
Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: False. It’s not like Marquette was landing top-10 prospects left and right to begin with. The kinds of players Buzz Williams has consistently won with are gritty junior college players and hard-nosed top-100 talent. Yes, the Big East was a selling point. But Buzz has put players in the NBA each and every year, and at the end of the day, the NBA is what truly sells a school. You got a chip on your shoulder? Want to prove everyone wrong? Join the club and come to Marquette.
Tess Quinlan, Marquette TV: True, but not a big hit. For some players, nothing will ever compare to playing in the Big East Conference. The physical play, high profile exposure and elite level of competition were all key recruiting points that the Big East guaranteed Marquette. Marquette’s recruiting will be kept in tact because of the coaching staff, the program’s national reputation and the proven NBA success of Marquette greats, like Doc Rivers, Wes Matthews and Lazar Hayward.
Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: False. Either way, Marquette should still end up in a talented conference. The Big 12 rejects would be ideal because we would know what Marquette’s conference would look like but the basketball conference could have the greater potential. If Marquette could keep all of the non-football playing Big East schools together and add talented basketball-only schools then it will still be a conference recruits would want to be part of.
5. Should the seven non-football schools stick together and Notre Dame stays, which four teams would you add to the basketball-only conference?
Mark Strotman, Marquette Tribune: Xavier and Butler seem like no-brainers and one would have to think they would be the first two schools to get the call. Dayton’s program is on the rise while Richmond, George Mason and Virginia Commonwealth would be options as well. Either way, the league needs at least 12 teams. Some have suggested a smaller, 10-team conference, but to stay competitive the conference needs more. Twelve teams seems like a good start, with the possibility of going to 14 or 16 if the schools (and markets) are right.
Anonymous Eagle: If it comes to that, a 10 team conference is the way to go. If you’re going to try to build a powerful basketball conference, the best way to earn yourself some publicity is appealing to the tradition minded college basketball writers and playing a traditional complete 18 game round robin schedule. As far as teams go, Butler and Xavier are the first two obvious choices. For the other two, we’ll take two teams that Marquette has a history of playing: Dayton and Creighton. Dayton gets the nod for having won the last two games against Marquette, and we want revenge. Marquette’s played 76 games against Creighton, but none since 1998. Creighton has a sneaky strong fan base, finishing 22nd in average attendance last year playing in a building in Omaha that the NCAA likes to use for NCAA Tournament games.
Andrei Greska, Marquette Tribune: I would only add two, and they would be Xavier and Butler. A 10-team conference gives you a nice even round robin schedule where everyone plays each other twice. Butler has a ton of momentum coming off back to back Final Four runs. Xavier has been even better than Marquette the past 10 years — except for when it counted last season — so it would be a great addition. Would it be better than the Big East? No, but it would salvage a dire situation.
Tess Quinlan, Marquette TV: There will be some pressure to provide more Midwest representation in the conference. Xavier would be a logical choice for the Big East to add. A proven contender, Xavier was predicted to beat Marquette in the NCAA Tournament. It has the geographic proximity as well as the basketball pedigree to compete in the Big East. Another team that could fit with the Big East is NCAA Tournament regular, Richmond. It already plays football in the CAA, so it could join strictly as a basketball member.
Mike Nelson, Marquette Tribune: Butler, Dayton, Xavier, and George Mason would make great additions to a basketball only conference – if the conference opts to make itself 12 teams deep. If it opted for only a 10-team league, then Butler and Xavier would be the top two candidates as both have been consistent NCAA Tournament visitors over the past five years.