Marquette Has 2 Possible Big East Escape Routes

Matt BarbatoCorrespondent INovember 28, 2012

It is going to take a lot more elbow grease to clean up the mess that the Big East has become.
It is going to take a lot more elbow grease to clean up the mess that the Big East has become.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Early Wednesday morning, Louisville became the seventh Big East school to announce it was leaving the conference.

The walls continue to cave in around the remaining Big East teams, and I wouldn't be surprised if schools like Connecticut and Cincinnati ditch the conference soon. Cincinnati was rumored to be the next team going to the ACC, and UConn will always generate interest because of its storied basketball program.

It's gotten to the point where it is hard to keep track of who is staying and going in the Big East, which is now resembling a Monday morning at Grand Central Station. Here is a brief breakdown of who is leaving the Big East and who is joining the Big East by 2014.

Who's leaving: West Virginia (already in the Big 12), Louisville, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, TCU (yes, it was expected to join the Big East and then bailed) and Rutgers.

Who's left: Marquette, Georgetown, Villanova, Seton Hall, DePaul, St. John's, Connecticut, South Florida, Cincinnati and Providence.

Who's joining: Boise State (football only), San Diego State (football only), East Carolina (football only), Tulane, Central Florida, Southern Methodist, Houston, Memphis and Navy.

Sure, the Big East is adding some decent football programs, but out of that list only Memphis strikes me as a threat in basketball. Southern Methodist could be a contender with Larry Brown at the helm, but none of these programs are adequate replacements for what the conference has lost.

Schools like Marquette, Georgetown and Villanova are the programs in the most trouble. A weaker Big East will draw recruits away, and a lack of a football program makes it much harder for them to move to another conference.

I have formulated two plans that could get Marquette out of the Big East and into a more competitive and stable conference.

My first plan is for Marquette to team up with Cincinnati and go to the Big Ten as a non-football school.

I'll admit, this plan is a bit of a long shot, but it is a possibility. If I were Marquette's athletic director Larry Williams, I would be on the phone right now trying to convince Cincinnati to move to the Big Ten.

Cincinnati and Marquette both have very good basketball programs that are getting better. They have both competed consistently in the Big East and are coming off of excellent seasons.

Cincinnati's football program is solid—the Bearcats are 8-3 this season and have gone to a bowl game in four of the last five seasons. The Big Ten would gladly accept them into the conference, and they could produce a rivalry with Ohio State and former Big East competitor Rutgers.

Here's where my plan gets interesting.

I know, Marquette does not have a football program, and the Big Ten would never allow a non-football school into the elite conference. But if Boise State can come to the Big East as a football-only school, why can't Marquette go to the Big Ten as a basketball-only school?

This would make the Big Ten uneven with 15 football teams and 16 basketball teams. Obviously, there is a need for a solid football program to fill the void created by Marquette.

Why not invite Northern Illinois as a football-only school?

Spit out your coffee, drop your jaw, scream "that's insane" at your monitor. But NIU is one of the most underrated football programs in the nation. Since 2008, the Huskies have gone 46-20 with two bowl victories and a 2-5 record against the Big Ten. Four of the five losses were by seven points or less.

If Northern Illinois were to join the Big Ten along with Cincinnati and Marquette, it would give the Big Ten two emerging and competitive programs in both basketball and football.

My second plan is for Marquette to join the Atlantic 10 conference along with another Big East or other respectable program.

This plan is very possible.

The Atlantic 10 is a growing basketball conference, and Marquette fits in perfectly. The A-10 has added two NCAA tournament Cinderellas in Butler and Virginia Commonwealth, and teams like Xavier, Saint Louis, Temple and Richmond have had recent success.

Marquette would be another great addition to an improving conference. If the Atlantic 10 could find another reputable program, possibly Georgetown or Villanova, to make it an even 18 teams, this plan could be executed.

It isn't as flashy of a move as going to the Big Ten, but it is an excellent fit for both Marquette and the conference and is a more practical idea.

Marquette's basketball program is becoming nationally prominent. All momentum would be lost if it were to stick around in the Big East. The conference is only getting worse, and a move to the Atlantic 10 would be beneficial for Marquette and every member of the A-10.