For college basketball fans (probably more so than college football fans), the Big East is still a brand that explains itself. It is a power hoops conference largely rooted in the northeastern United States, borne of an old-school hoops culture and guys with "youse" accents in places like New York, Philly, Connecticut, Jersey, Boston, Rhode Island, and so on.
Of course, the Big East has not been that for quite some time. In another year, when Syracuse and Pittsburgh leave, it will entirely cease to resemble the Big East we once knew. Instead, it will be a patchwork conference designed to maximize national television revenues, with markets in places like Memphis, Boise, Dallas, Orlando and San Diego. Yes, San Diego State, which is a 15-minute drive from the Pacific Ocean, is a member of something called the Big East.
No wonder, then, that the Big East is considering a name change. Former interim commissioner Joe Bailey confirmed at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit that the league had "commissioned a study to consider alternative names," but wouldn't reveal any of the options or provide a timetable for when the conference might realign its brand. But lest we forget, brands are important!
“A brand is extremely important because it tells the marketplace that this is what the Big East stands for,” Bailey said. “There is so much equity in the name, Big East, what do you do with that?”
He said it was more likely the conference will “tweak a little” than come up with a wholesale change to the name. “Stay tuned,” Bailey said. “There will be a twist to that, but it can’t look less than authentic.”
I'm no MBA, but I would argue that there are more important things to a business (or a conference) than its brand. Like -- and this is just a guess -- the product? If your product is a classically grizzled group of northeastern basketball teams with iconic coaches and inherent rivalries, it probably doesn't matter what you call your conference. Hence: Big East. Simple. Easy to remember. Largely beside the point.
But if your conference happens to be a hastily assembled, haphazard group of teams spread throughout the country -- if you've gotten so far behind the modern football market, mismanaged your league so badly, you have to just start adding anyone who'll join up -- maybe a hot new brand (ugh) is the best you can do. So let's see if we can't help the Big East here. It's a conference with a national footprint ... it has to be simple and easy to understand, but has to reflect geographic agnosticism ... hmmm ....
Oh, I've got it! Conference USA!