College Football Expansion: What Will Become of the Big East Conference?

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterDecember 11, 2012

EAST HARTFORD, CT - DECEMBER 01: Brendon Kay #11 of the Cincinnati Bearcats runs with the ball against the Connecticut Huskies during the game at Rentschler Field on December 1, 2012 in East Hartford, Connecticut. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Generally, over the last few seasons, the Big East has been viewed as a lesser, secondary conference; but, it was still a conference that played on the big stage. With the playoff coming in 2014, the league was assured the right to share an automatic bid with other smaller conferences. They were also poised to add teams that would grow their footprint and give them a unique place on the college football landscape.

As things stand right now, The Big East is on the verge of going the way of the SWC and the WAC.

Now, as ESPN's Andy Katz and Brett McMurphy report, things could be far worse than being just a little brother of a conference. From their report:

Sources said the New York meeting was the first among the seven schools (Marquette, DePaul, St. John's, Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall and Villanova) and ultimately could lead to them splitting from the Big East's football members.

Sources said the seven schools discussed a number of options but most importantly wanted to have "lots of dialogue to better understand the best course of action for the future." Another source said no decision was made on what future action to take. 

"It's too early to say on that," said a source.

At issue is whether the Big East basketball-only schools have the power to dissolve the league, and retain all the assets and brand name. A source with knowledge of the situation said that until July 1, the seven have the majority votes and the necessary three-fourths to have controlling power. There are only three remaining football members -- Connecticut, Cincinnati and South Florida.

In other words, UConn, Cinci and USF had better find a way to play nice until summer time. The basketball schools grabbing both the name and essentially kicking them out of the league would force plenty of dominoes to fall.

I won't bore you with the basketball side of things; the schools banding together to make some mega basketball league hardly makes me raise an eyebrow. However, the football side of things could lead to a true boon for "the little guy" leagues as they head into the next era.

Right now, the Mountain West, Conference-USA and the MAC have lost or are going to lose teams to the struggling-to-survive Big East. If the basketball-only schools exercise their right to leave, those leagues would be getting not just their teams back, but they could grab the Big East's three leftover teams in the process.

For the Mountain West, that means getting their top property, Boise State, back into the fold. Conference-USA, who was pillaged for teams from Texas to North Carolina, would be able to get back to good strength as well.

The major goal, should the league dissolve, would be the MAC, MWC, C-USA and Sun Belt retaining that automatic bid for their highest-ranked champion. A caveat like that will certainly work wonders from an access standpoint, especially in a system that was once shutting them out. 

Now, as we get to the end of this matter is where I issue a mea culpa. Originally, the idea of a basketball only seemed nuts. Football is the cash cow and without it, revenues are remarkably paltry. Surely, I thought, with their new television negotiations coming up, the schools would be better off sticking by the football members to maximize funds.

As CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd detailed, that is not exactly the case. With travel to places like Dallas, Houston, Tampa and Orlando, the basketball schools would be incurring more costs. Thus, while the overall number would be several hundred thousand dollars higher per school, the net gain would be minimal.

In other words, what I forgot was just how much the conference changed in the last few months or so. Losing Rutgers and Louisville, plus the removal of Notre Dame's programs is a sizable blow. Enough for the television executives to be less than bullish on the number.

For the league to survive in both football and basketball, there will have to be some compromises and some concessions. Getting into Texas for television helps, as does getting a brand like Boise State. However, the basketball schools will have to be appeased in some fashion in order for UConn, Cincinnati and USF to have a conference to welcome the new teams into.

The future is on the rocks and it is going to take some creative negotiating from Mike Aresco and the football schools to make things work. Teams like Boise State are eyeing the door with caution and if everything falls apart before July, the Big East, as a football league, could cease to exist.