While I hit on this the other day, the one thing that has seemed to gone completely unnoticed in all of the talk of conference realignment is the impact on college basketball, specifically the NCAA (OMG!11!1 best ever, suck it playoff h8ters) tournament. I shared the view that no matter what happened with all of that non-sense out west, at the end of the day, the Big East would probably end up more powerful as a basketball conference and irrelevant as a football conference.
Now, they are making moves to ensure they not only remain relevant as a football conference, at least as relevant as a conference can be with five schools named after cities and two directional schools that are not part of a State's name, but will help keep them being considered the premier conference in college hoops. Oh, yeah, they are thinking about adding Memphis, too.
For you keeping score at home, that will be 18 teams, 10 of which are football members. The important part of this for the Big East, though, is that with 18 basketball members, if you include Memphis, you are gauranteed of having 8 bids to the NCAA torney every year, with the possibility of having 10 to 12 in any one year. I know, you at home are saying, so what? I'll tell you what: it makes the perception that the Big East is all that even more prelevant in the minds of decisions makers. The pundits will continue on about how tough the Big East is, how the day in and day out drag of playing in a conference with 10 legit NCAA tourney contenders is so difficult, without ever acknowledging there are 18 f'ing teams in the conference. Suddenly, that 20-16 (8-8) record in the Big East looks better than that same record in other conferences.
Hey, I applaud the Big East. Good move on their part adding the might Knights of UCF. You 'create' a football rivalry for USF, who was languishing nearly 1000 miles from the closest football team in conference. If you get Memphis, you get a program that has done it their way (read: been good at basketball in the old fashioned way, they bought it), but is still considered a very good program despite that. Memphis is also competitive in football some years.
What that means for the other conferences is that at large bids to March Madness just got tougher to earn. Again, it might not matter much to the average football fan. To those of us that are basketball fans too, it matters much. By the way, it should matter to you football fans, as well. Most of the big time football recruits ARE basketball fans and would like to have a solid basketball team to root for as well. Having the NCAA tournament being harder to get into because one conference (whether legitimately or otherwise) seems good enough to merit bumps in RPI and people's minds isn't such a good thing, at least on the margins.
Paul Hewitt should be very nervous now.