With the Big East facing yet another departure of a football member, DePaul men’s basketball coach Oliver Purnell said the league’s non-football schools need to seriously consider their future within or without the Big East structure.
“I think we have to have our heads in the sand not to be thinking about some of those things in light of what’s happening with the shuffling in the leagues,” Purnell told The Gazette last week at the Cancun Challenge. “You’ve got to think about all kinds of alternatives and what ifs. To not possibly have those thoughts is if this whole thing blows up or every team leaves, what do you do?”
Wednesday, Louisville became the seventh Big East member in 15 months to accept an invitation from another conference. Louisville will join the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014, one year after current Big East rivals Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Rutgers announced last week it will compete in the Big Ten in either 2014 or 2015. West Virginia left this year for the Big 12.
Notre Dame, which was a Big East member in all sports but football, will join the ACC under the same arrangement likely in 2014. Texas Christian was set to join the Big East this year but backed out when the Big 12 offered a 2012 invitation last year.
By 2014 the Big East’s only football holdovers remaining from the 2011 season will be Cincinnati, Connecticut and South Florida.
The Big East has tried to replenish its football ranks and will add nine new full or partial members in the next three years. The league picked up Temple for football this year, and all sports next year. Houston, SMU and Central Florida will join in 2013 as full members, and Tulane on Tuesday accepted an all-sports invitation for 2014. Boise State (2013), San Diego State (2013), East Carolina (2014) and Navy (2015) will become football-only members.
In the ACC, Louisville will replace Maryland, which accepted a 2014 Big Ten invitation on Nov. 19, a day before Rutgers. Maryland was an ACC charter member, and its move surprised Purnell as much as Syracuse announcing its Big East departure.
“I think that was a little bit of a shocker to people, a little bit of a wake-up call that there’s no real end in sight,” said Purnell, who coached ACC member Clemson for seven years before moving to DePaul three years ago. “People kind of paused and thought that it was going to sit tight for a couple of years, but I think says it that nothing’s safe or sacred.
“Of course you had Syracuse (going to the ACC), and that was a shocker as well. This was every bit as shocking if not more shocking because Maryland was one of the founding schools in the ACC, we used to say the granddaddy of them all. Rutgers wasn’t as much of a shocker. They view that as a great move for them, and not a lot of people would argue that.”
DePaul is one of seven Big East schools — along with Marquette, Georgetown, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Villanova and Providence — that do not compete in Big East football. The amount of funding each school received compared to their football counterparts was significantly lower. According to the league’s 2011 tax return, Fiesta Bowl football representative Connecticut earned more than $12.7 million. DePaul, which did not qualify for a postseason basketball tournament, took in about $2.94 million.
If anything, Purcell said, the constant realignment shows basketball’s place in college athletics.
“It’s just not going to be driven by basketball,” Purnell said. “We can think all we want and it’s smart to have contingency plans and all of that, but football schools and conferences and presidents are making those calls in terms of where is my football program safe and it doesn’t much care or think about where the basketball program is.
“What’s driving all of this is football and TV dollars and so it really doesn’t have much to do with basketball and that decision probably won’t be pushed through basketball in terms of what happens with the Big East or any other league.”
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