What conference realignment means for Marquette

Welcome to Marquette Fr. Pilarz!

First you dealt with sexual assault claims against athletes all summer, which in some form or another led to the outing of Athletic Director Steve Cottingham.

Then you witnessed Milwaukee becoming Compton where armed robberies were as common as the sun rising in the morning.

And just as your inauguration ceremony is set to take place, fellow Big East schools Syracuse and Pittsburgh decide they no longer want to be a part of the current conference limbo, applying for membership in the ACC over the weekend and putting the Big East’s future in jeopardy.

O conference realignment how we hate thee. It’s no secret that Marquette hit the jackpot when it was called in to play with the big boys in 2005. The days of the BEast are dwindling though with the announcement that Syracuse and Pittsburgh are booking it for the ACC.

Older fans will reminisce on that faithful day in January when Steve Novak went into

Via SI.com

#beastmode against the No. 2 Connecticut Huskies in the Golden Eagle’s maiden Big East voyage, dropping 41 points and 16 rebounds and telling the world exactly what “We are Marquette” meant.

That was almost seven years ago, though, and all those fond Big East memories must remain mere ghosts of the mind to be re-lived in the depths of our dreams.

It’s a new world now, one that may or may not include our beloved Jesuit institution in a premier collegiate conference.

Football has assumed the throne and it is a ruthless master. It feeds on greenbacks, but billions in revenue isn’t enough, it wants it every last penny.

Enough with the poetic prose though, let’s go through this one step at a time. Football makes gazillions of dollars for universities and obtains billion dollar television contracts. While basketball is No. 2, it doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Herein lies the problem. In the Big East, basketball was No. 1 so while it may have been stacked and producing national championships and whatnot, it pales in comparison to the other conferences when it comes to TV money.

Under current contract situations, the ACC gets $1.86 billion for 12 years, the Big Ten $3.8 billion from two sources through at least 2016, the Big 12 gets $1.5 billion for at least eight years, the SEC $3.1 billion for 15 years,  and the Pac-12 $3 billion for 12 years.

Want to see how we used to measure up? The Big East got mere decimal points compared to the other leagues. The contract set to run out in 2013 was only worth $200 million and had to be split 16 ways. The greatest basketball conference ever couldn’t lay a finger on anyone else.

This is where things get hazy and tempers start to flare. The Big East was in contract negotiations with ESPN this summer for a bigger, better contract, reportedly worth $1 billion over nine years. When it looked like a deal might be reached, conference leaders decided to halt negotiations and wait to see if they could get an even better deal.

Who headed those negotiations? Pitt’s Chancellor Mark Nordenburg. That’s right the guy that just bolted for a different conference said no to a bigger contract for the league, making his path towards traitordom that much simpler.

“He was keeping everybody together and asking everybody to be unified,” Louisville’s Athletic Director Tom Jurich told newspapers on Saturday. “I think everybody trusted him.”

So what does this mean for Marquette you say. Will our basketball team automatically suck? Will we be forced to join the Horizon League? Will we cease to exist? No, of course not.

Marquette has survived conference musical chairs before and it will again. The key is to maintain at least a core the conference so as to keep the Big East brand. Ideally we pick up Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri from the hard struck Big 12, but even if the worst should happen and all the football schools desert us — which it looks will probably happen — the basketball only schools must remain bonded.

Playing Butler or Dayton may not have the appeal of facing Connecticut or Syracuse, but it beats having to play Wisconsin-Green Bay and Valparaiso. Recruiting becomes more difficult, attendance drops a bit and national television appearances aren’t guaranteed.

The solution: winning. The Athletic Department is committed to the program, pumping in more funds than any other school not named Duke, and it must reaffirm its commitment.

It’s safe to say Fr. Pilarz has his work cut out for him.

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One Comment on “What conference realignment means for Marquette”

  1. Rick Smith
    November 28, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    Kansas? lol.

    Big East never had a chance for such a prestigious school

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