Wednesday, September 21, 2011
As Realignment Accelerates, NCAA Urges Caution
Donned in Pac-12 apparel during a Tuesday news conference, University of Oregon football coach Chip Kelly told reporters, “I may be wearing a throwback shirt. I don’t know.”|
Based on a Pac-12 statement released last night, we now know that the conference, which just welcomed Colorado and Utah into its ranks last year, has no current plans for expansion. At least we think we know. Not a day goes by (at least since last Friday) without some new chatter about conference realignment.
On Saturday, word got out that the Big East, anticipating defections to the Pac-12 by Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, had reached out to remaining teams in the Big 12. Meanwhile, Big East commissioner John Marinatto indicated he wasn’t aware of plans by Syracuse and Pittsburgh to apply for membership in the ACC.
Sunday brought news that the Syracuse and Pitt desertions had prompted the Big East’s Rutgers to seek relocation in either the Atlantic Coast Conference or the Big Ten. On Monday, we learned that Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel called it “naïve” to think that the Big 12 could survive without the likes of Texas and Oklahoma leaving the conference — a prospect that launched discussions of a possible Big East/Big 12 merger.
By Tuesday, Conference USA’s East Carolina had applied to the Big East, the Big 12’s Missouri reportedly had been offered a spot in the ACC, and membership inquiries by the Big East’s West Virginia had been rejected by both the ACC and the Southeastern Conference. It was reported that Oklahoma would consider staying in the Big 12, provided conference commissioner Dan Beebe is removed. Last night, athletic directors and presidents of the Big East’s football schools (including Texas Christian, which announced it was joining the league as its 17th member last fall) were scheduled to meet over the conference’s future.
Your head isn’t the only one spinning. In the wake of the Syracuse and Pitt defections, NCAA president Mark Emmert told USA Today, “This is not about playing Monopoly and moving pieces around on the board. These are real institutions with real students and real coaches and real programs, and it’s much, much more complex than playing a simple game. There’s a chance to do some things that would be helpful, and there’s a chance to do some things that would be very wrong.”
In particular, Emmert warned of costs in terms of both student-athlete classroom time and athletic department travel budgets associated with far-flung conference membership. Syracuse teams will cover more than 1,200 miles when traveling to Miami of Florida, for example. “Moving young men and women around in the middle of the week or over extended weekends, over those kinds of distances, is pretty hard to square with support for the academic success of students,” Emmert told USA Today’s Steve Wieberg, adding that the NCAA can only advise member schools. It can’t stop them from realigning.
Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim, for one, thinks it was time to move on. “If we were leaving the old Big East, I’d probably be upset,” Boeheim said Tuesday in an interview on Syracuse radio station WSKO, as reported by the Associated Press. “But what we have now in the Big East isn’t what we used to have. It’s completely different.”
UPDATE: The following is a statement posted on the Big East’s website following its Tuesday meeting:
“Our membership met this evening and we are committed as a conference to recruit top level BCS caliber institutions with strong athletic and academic histories and traditions. We have been approached by a number of such institutions and will pursue all of our options to make the BIG EAST Conference stronger than it has ever been in both basketball and football.”