Realignment is real, and UConn searches for a life raft in the ACC

Because hey, we could all use a little cheering up today.

 

The Big East as we knew it died Sunday morning, when the Atlantic Coast Conference officially accepted the applications of Syracuse University and Pittsburgh University to extend the league's membership to 14 teams.

What remains of the Big East is an unwieldy, rickety 15-team structure well on its way to collapse. Seven football teams remain, but the Northeastern character of the league (on the football side, at least) is all but gone - just UConn and Rutgers. The endgame appears obvious at this point - the total disintegration of the Big East as a football conference - and now that the game is on, it's time to make moves.

Elsewhere, other dominoes are about to fall - notably, this report of Texas readying to jump from the Big 12 to the Pac 12, thus destroying a second BCS conference; I doubt Oklahoma (and Oklahoma State/Texas Tech) are far behind.

That part, at least, is good news. Because if Texas won't be parking its non-football sports in the ACC, it means there is a spot open in that conference, should it choose to expand to 16. UConn, Rutgers, Louisville and West Virginia would all be logical candidates for those final two spots.

To her credit, UConn president Susan Herbst is already actively using her connections to lobby for UConn's inclusion in the new super-conference world.

It's the only card UConn can play now: to escape the dying Big East and hope its value is high enough to be an attractive target. The remaining Big East football teams will have to do the same thing.

I don't want to see any of our Big East friends left behind; I rather liked this conference.

But if there's any consolation for fellow Big East-loving Husky fans, if the ACC extends an invitation to UConn, that league would have most of the teams we love to hate (Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Duke, Chestnut Hill School of Pretension And Losing To Duke, our old buddy Randy Edsall down at Maryland), with the possibility of Rutgers coming along as the 16th team. It would be weird, certainly, but it's the best thing that could happen for UConn at this point (both in the major sports and the minor - ACC soccer, field hockey and baseball are all near the best in the NCAA).

(Side note: I don't begrudge Pitt and Syracuse one bit for making this move. They were shackled by a league office that continually put basketball first in a football-dominated world. The Big East made half-measures to improve the football league [adding TCU] while continually trying to appease the old-school basketball schools [trying to add Villanova]. The league was simply not sustainable at its current state, and was always going to be easy prey for the bigger-money conferences.)

In the utopia where college sports isn't big business designed to wring the most money out of the biggest brand names, maybe the move towards consolidation wouldn't be inevitable. And maybe UConn would still be a happy, satisfied member of the Big East, playing Georgetown, St. John's and Villanova every year in perpetuity.

But we don't live in that world. We live in the world where UConn (and West Virginia, and Louisville, and Rutgers, and USF, etc.) wants to compete at the highest level of athletics, and that means doing everything possible to stick with one of the new power football conferences. At least until the next paradigm shift.

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