In moves made with no regard to former conference ties, regions, or rivalries, the Big East is set to bring on both Tulane and East Carolina. This decision comes following a massive wave of defections that has decimated the once-proud conference.
The Tulane Green Wave is set to join as an all-sports member while East Carolina will only be bringing its football program to their new conference.
Tulane is being brought on for two main reasons. First and most transparently, to offset the loss of Rutgers, who is heading to the Big Ten (which now stands at 14 teams and is hopefully debating a new name and a rebranding campaign itself, but that is neither here nor there). Secondly, the Big East is negotiating new television rights. Tulane is currently building a new stadium far closer to campus than the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which fills to capacity for New Orleans Saints games, but looks and sounds like a monastery when the college team comes through.
Thus, an up-and-coming team in a big-time market will be leverage in the conference’s ongoing negotiations with broadcasting companies.
The addition of East Carolina as a football-only member brings the league up to an uneven 13 teams, however.
The league’s brass is already anticipating the loss of either Louisville or Connecticut, one of which is likely to be absorbed by the ACC following the defection of Maryland. The Terrapins led the way for Rutgers to join the Big Ten when they signed aboard their new conference first.
In all, the Big East has suffered the losses of West Virginia, TCU, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Rutgers, while Temple joined this year. Next season, Boise State, San Diego State, Memphis, UCF, Houston and SMU are scheduled to join the league.
Navy will join as a football-only member in 2015.
However, there are now rumors circulating that Boise State and San Diego State may stand pat in the Mountain West Conference. With the rules set up the way they have been for the playoff system that is to be instituted in 2014, the MWC is just as likely to earn an automatic invite to a BCS Bowl game as is the Big East.
Navy is also rumored, along with the aforementioned Louisville and Connecticut, to be coveted by the swelling ACC.
Of the teams committed to playing in the Big East next season, nine are former members of Conference USA, so elite small-conference members such as Boise and San Diego may no longer have the motivation to jump to the league. This especially after the MWC has taken on San Jose State and Utah State, two up-and-coming programs that will only make the league more competitive.
No longer will the Big East simply be ‘east’. With the television contract in flux, the league is touting itself as a national brand with schools in markets such as Philadelphia, Washington DC, Milwaukee and now New Orleans.
Stay tuned as the dominos continue to fall in the game of conference realignment.
Information from ESPN was used in this report.
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