The message has always been “Their loss.” When Syracuse and Pittsburgh departed for the ACC, that was the uneasy but reassuring message to which the rest of the Big East member institutions clung for dear life. When West Virginia made a similar move to the Big 12, but with a little more of a hissy fit attached to it, the Mountaineers made a point to get out of the conference right away and were willing to pay any price to do it.
In the wake of these departures, the Big East seemed to make a scapegoat of former commissioner John Marinatto. Perhaps the criticism was warranted; Marinatto failed to secure a new, lucrative television deal for the conference at a time when other major commissioners were doing just that.
The conference then scrambled to replace established teams like Syracuse, venturing far away from the East Coast to secure teams like Boise State, Houston, and San Diego State, until the notion of a “Big East” became comical. But then the higher-ups kicked Marinatto to the curb, and brought on former CBS Sports executive Mike Aresco to take the reigns on a new television deal in hopes of revitalizing the conference.
And with all that optimism in place, the wheels came off once more when Notre Dame announced yesterday that it too would be departing for the ACC. The Fighting Irish were supposed to be a crucial element holding the conference together, but instead the squad left for the ACC as well. Schools like Georgetown, Villanova, and St. John’s were always going to stick around—without moneymaking football programs, they don’t have any alternative. Having Notre Dame at their side, even without the football component, would have worked wonders for television deals.
Instead, the Fighting Irish relented in some sense, agreeing to play five football games against ACC opponents and joining the conference for all other sports. The move leaves us Hoya fans in a bind, quite possibly a bigger one than when Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced their departure plans.
Where does this restructuring leave our Hoyas? It’s certainly not a promising position; the vast majority thought the super-conferences and pillaging would end with the West Virginia announcement. But the Notre Dame announcement proved that this kind of change could happen at any time. The Big East is no longer in flux. Teams aren’t departing and being replaced by schools of equal caliber, but the instant one of our conference’s great programs departs, the Big East replaces it with a lesser product.
A muddied cluster of teams is a recipe for disaster. It screams mid-major and will, over time, certainly reduce Georgetown to a lesser institution. As it stands now, the Hoyas compete with the best of them in a number of sports. Track and lacrosse (despite a couple of mediocre seasons) remain national contenders, because they were able to compete with the best teams in the Big East.
Now, we’re led to believe that there are a number of teams clamoring to leave the Big East at the first possible opportunity, Georgetown included. If the ACC came knocking on Louisville or UConn’s door, for instance, the team would leave in a heartbeat, regardless of any public commitment the institution may make now to the fragmented conference.
In a similar manner, if Georgetown gets a call from the ACC, it too should leave without thinking twice. The switch makes sense for both parties–the ACC now has 14 football members, with Notre Dame skewing the number with a 15th, non-football member. Georgetown, sentimentality aside, needs to find a new stable home or run the risk of turning into a mid-major with a storied past (See Holy Cross as a prime example).
Georgetown’s addition to the conference would even these numbers out—the new super-conference would have 16 basketball institutions, dually alleviating pressure from Notre Dame to join the conference completely.
Unfortunately for Georgetown fans, we are in the unenviable position of waiting around for the ACC or Big East’s next move. It’s ironic that, after a full year tearing Syracuse apart for leaving, the Hoya fanbase may not have any promising option other than to follow suit. Sometimes, the grass really is greener on the other side.