Who is to blame for realignment?

If you’re looking for whom to blame in the NCAA realignment fiasco, and the likely death of the Big East as we know it, start with this list:

  • The NCAA.  The NCAA is quick to say that they have no authority to affect realignment, and the organization will be crying when the four superconferences likely to result from all this decide to pull out and form their own organization.  But consider this: this entire mess started with the ACC in 2003.  Why did the ACC expand? Because of an NCAA rule that required a league to have 12 teams before it would be allowed to hold a conference championship game in football.   Unless I’m mistaken, the only two conferences at the time that would have been eligible were the SEC and the Big 12.  Had the arbitrary rule allowed for conferences with even ten teams to hold championships, the ACC might have grabbed Miami and been done with it.  The Big Ten and Pac 10 would have been okay as is.
  • The ACC and John Swofford.  I understand the desire to expand in 2003, and if they were going to expand, they needed to get to 12 teams.  Poaching all three from the Big East seemed purposeful.  Fast forward to 2011.  The ACC, Big Ten and Big East supposedly had an agreement in place not to poach from each other.  If that’s true, and if the ACC really went behind the Big East’s back as has been reported, then Swofford is really a snake.
  • Notre Dame.  Notre Dame could have stopped all of this realignment in 2003 if they had joined the Big East in football.  Miami would have stuck around, and Virginia Tech and BC never would have been tempted.  Instead, they allowed the league to be decimated – the league, probably the only BCS conference that would provide a home for the rest of their teams.  In 2010, the Fighting Irish had the opportunity to join the Big 10, and again head off realignment, or join the Big East, and strengthen it.  Again they refused.  I said at the time that the Big East should kick them out.  I still believe they made a mistake not doing so.
  • Miami and Donna Shalala.  They turned their backs on the Big East, after declaring loyalty to the conference, and started the whole mess.  How has that worked out, Miami?  Your football team has nose-dived, and your basketball team is mediocre.
  • The Big East Conference.  The Big East doesn’t get a pass here.

o       The Big East has never done anything proactively to protect itself.  Instead, it has been reactive.  The league never should have been as weak as it was prior to the first ACC raid.  Staying at eight teams was a mistake.  That was partly because:

o       The Big East started as a basketball conference, and later added football.  I don’t recall if it was an afterthought (I suspect it was; most of the founding schools were basketball only) or if it was planned, but the number of basketball-only schools has impacted the ability to expand the football base.  Adding TCU, for example, gave the Big East 17 basketball teams.

o       Adding DePaul and Marquette.  Adding Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida was necessary.  Adding DePaul and Marquette made the league unwieldy.

o       Not kicking out Notre Dame.  The league has let Notre Dame be a basketball-only school.

o       Time and time again, the Big East has made critical mistakes, including denying membership to Penn State early on.  Joe Paterno wanted to be part of an eastern football league.  Penn State would still be around.

o       Ousting Temple.  I’ll bet the Big East wishes that Temple was still around.

o       Trusting the ACC.


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