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Is the sky falling?

I was at work yesterday when I first saw the tweet that Tulane was to become a full-time member of the Big East. I chuckled to myself and kept working.

Checking back in a half hour or so later notified me that East Carolina would be added for football. I closed my browser and planted my face directly in my palms.

These were two giant steps backward that did absolutely nothing for Marquette or the Big East. Save me the urban area/TV potential argument. No one watches Conference USA right now, and re-labeling it the Big East won’t make much of a difference. 

It’s obvious Louisville agreed, as they will now move to the ACC. Connecticut and Cincinnati are not far behind, although who, if anyone, will take them is still up for grabs. Marquette had gone from playing Syracuse, Pitt, Louisville and Notre Dame to playing SMU, Central Florida, Temple and Tulane.

This was it. The moment I had been dreading since 2010 was coming to pass. For the first time since 2000 or so, the future of Marquette as a national brand was in question.

A funny thing happened during the sojourn into my sorrows, though. Rather than being angry or saddened by the news, I came out at peace with our place in the world and actually a bit relieved.

For the past two years Marquette fans have lived in fear of conference realignment. Like a rickety guillotine hanging over their heads by a mere thread,  they could never breathe easy knowing their place in the college landscape was secure. At any moment it could come hurtling down, slicing off everything that had been built up since the Final Four run in 2003.

I consider myself one of those fans. I have been using my platforms to argue the sky is falling ever since Nebraska moved to the Big Ten.

This  is what I wrote for my small hometown weekly back in 2010. The exact details didn’t come to pass as I predicted, but the general landscape of chaos did.

This was written last year after Syracuse and Pitt announced their defections.

This is from two months ago when Notre Dame bailed. By no means was I original or on the cutting edge with my doom and gloom predictions, it was basically common knowledge. I just post these to highlight my how deep my pessimism runs.

Yet, despite all the gloom, Marquette’s position isn’t as precarious as some have made it out to be. We all knew this was a possibility from the moment the ink dried on the first Big East contract Marquette signed. It was a temporary spot that was extremely beneficial for the school and its programs.

Now that the ax has come down, it is possible to move on. Marquette is handicapped in its power and decision making ability without the clout of football or a reputation like Georgetown, but unless one of the big conferences decides to allow partial members, Marquette is in good company with the likes of Villanova and the Hoyas.

That’s not to say everything will stay the same and Marquette will be in as good a position as it was before, but rather, as long the administration  remains committed to having a top flight program, Marquette will not become UW-Milwaukee II overnight. This whole movement has been about money, and that is a topic where this Jesuit program has no problem walking the walk. It has given Buzz Williams a huge sum, lured an assistant from a Big Ten program, and continues to pony up for travel and recruiting.

As for where the Golden Eagles ultimately end up, here at Paint Touches we have thrown our hat in the non-football conference ring. Personally, I believe that is where the game of musical chairs will end. It will be be a hit from a TV revenue perspective, but ultimately, the stability will compensate for that.

I liken  these past few weeks to having both your legs amputated (and probably an arm as well) after a bad case of frostbite. Sure you will have to relearn how to do the most basic tasks and adjust your routines accordingly, but it beats being stuck out in the nasty blizzard, not knowing when you will find shelter.

Marquette is still a program with rich history, the backing of an administration and a commitment to the future. The old days were sweet, but that doesn’t mean future is toast.

Patience, peeps. At the rate this dance is going, we shall know our fate soon enough. I, for one, am not worried.

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5 Comments on “Is the sky falling?”

  1. Jim Imbur
    November 28, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    It is time to form an all BB conference. Start with the” basketball only” BE members and invite Butler, VCU, Xavier, St. Louis, and Creighton to join. Dayon and Temple would be 2 others to maybe add. Football being the prime consideration will kill what remains of the humiliated BE basketball legacy.

  2. Daniel
    November 28, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

    I am a current student at East Carolina and an avid MU basketball fan. I completely understand that the realignment tragically hurts Marquette. I have no doubt Marquette being the program it is, it will rise up and stay strong willed. I do want to make this point, however. The Big East is better for adding East Carolina as a football only member. ECU has the best-fan base (not by my opinion but by the other schools in C-USA) in C-USA. Average attendance for home football games is 3 among all members in both Big East and C-USA combined. This is a great move that should have happened a long time ago. In 6 of the last 7 years, ECU has made a bowl game. Also, ECU won C-USA in both ’08 and ’09. This is a great move for both parties.

  3. Rick Smith
    November 28, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when getting East Carolina is considered a “great move” for the Big East.

  4. Bill MacPherson
    November 28, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    .Thank you for the well written – thought out article. I think you are right on. It is time to form a basketball dominated league.

    I think it is time for Marquette to move on. As long as basketball is a high priority for the administration (i.e. they are willing to invest the money) then I think our program will continue to be in good shape regardless of the league. As an alum who lives in Wyoming I appreciated the Big East because it gave me a chance to re-connect with the a program that had 6-10 nationally televised games. However, with the proper league that will continue. I league with Georgetown, Villinova, Marquette, St. Johns, Xavier, would command some national games. In addition there are new ways to that games are getting to fans outside the Milwaukee area (ESPN 3 and ESPN radio app). This is important because when I can watch Marquette on TV, listen to them on the Radio or read about them on sites like Paint Touches, I am more interested in giving back to the program.

    Marquette will not be a UW Milwaukee II program because of tradition, spending/income from basketball and the support of the administration. As long as those stay in place we will continue to demand national attention (I believe Marquette was 9th in home attendance last year). The one wildcard I see is if/when the BCS conferences start to feed on any of these basketball only schools. That doesn’t seem to make financial sense. But if it is a concern that can be addressed through the buy out clause for the conference (although Maryland is willing to pay $50,000,000.00 to leave the ACC?)

    As a college sports fan I just hate to see all these long time rivalries being gutted. No more Nebraska / Oklahoma football. No more Maryland / Duke or North Carolina basketball. It just sucks and I think over time will bring the entire college sports down, but that just may be sour apples on my part. Bottom line is the tipping point has come for Marquette and it is now time to be pro-active and not reactive. I know Buzz Williams could sell a 1972 Pinto to a lexus owner, but I would think this current unknown would make recruiting very hard. Form a Basketball only conference now.

  5. Daniel
    November 29, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    Big East hasn’t been all that good in football. Lets talk in terms of the Big East last year. Right away ECU becomes the 3rd best team in that conference. Not to mention the fan base, I think that’s enough to call this a “great move” by ECU.

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