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Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Take Two: Should Big East keep its name?

By Matt Fortuna

Louisville, Pitt, Rutgers and Syracuse are on their way out. Boise State and San Diego State left before they were even in. Basketball-only schools will be next, and there is no question that this version of the Big East hardly resembles its earlier self.

With that, we wonder: Should the Big East keep its name moving forward? We'd love to hear from you.

Andrea: There is one very simple way to answer the Big East name change question.

Q: How many Big East teams remain from the first year the league began playing football in 1991?

A: One. Temple.

That, my friends, is exactly why the Big East should politely hand over its conference name to the breakaway hoops schools and start over. Because nothing in this current/future league iteration shouts Big East.

Do you know what does? A conga line snaking out the door, of 19 schools that have hit the road since 2004. If anything, the Big East name in football has become synonymous with departure. Abandonment. Eye rolls. Laughter. That is a major problem, no matter the fancy re-branding efforts that the league will undertake once it has added a 12th school and solidified its television situation.

Because commissioner Mike Aresco has been telling anyone who would listen that his league is going to survive, be stronger, play good football. To look at the facts, not the misperceptions. Well, nobody is listening because they are snickering, what with the radical membership change in the last two years.

The best -- and only -- way to re-brand is to start over. Pretend as if the Big East name never existed. Because of all these departures -- and the failed Manifest Destiny expansion West -- the perception has been irreparably harmed. Why would the Big East want to hang on to a name that is now universally derided? Let’s be honest. The Big East was NEVER a football conference. Not when it began playing football, not when Miami won a national championship in 2001, not when schools began leaving in 2004.

So there is no point in starting now that the name has been completely tarnished. There is no reason to continually remind people about what could have been in the Big East. Given the changing dynamics -- the playoff system, no guaranteed spot in an elite-level tie-in game, a smaller piece of the revenue distribution pie -- it is more important than ever that the Big East focus on what is to come.

That means letting go of the past and embracing the future, with a new direction and a new name.

Matt: If we are going to have a conversation about numbers and names and conferences, and if we are going to look at reality as it relates to each of those things, then all we must do is look at the other automatic qualifying leagues.

OK ... all except the Pac-12, that is.

Still, if the Big Ten can get away with the name of its brand despite venturing out East with no end in sight, and if the Big 12 can keep its misplaced title as well, why shouldn't the Big East, which remains mostly east?

With the backing out of future football-only members Boise State and San Diego State to return to the Mountain West Conference, all of the Big East's current or incoming schools but Houston, Memphis, SMU and Tulane are located in the Eastern time zone, which actually makes it much more regional than most BCS conferences.

That Midwest consortium of schools known as the Big Ten? Eight of its 14 schools run on Eastern time.

The SouthEASTERN conference? Nine of its 14 schools run on Central time.

Heck, even the numerically correct Pac-12 has four schools that are not located in the Pacific Time Zone.

The "Catholic Seven" is a fancy name, one that is more than fitting for a group of schools that has decided to take its collective interests elsewhere. It's not like former Conference-USA members DePaul and Marquette ooze Big East tradition, unless you count DePaul's annual season-ending, one-and-done trip to Madison Square Garden for the conference tournament. (And new partner Tulane is a more than capable replacement for that role, anyway.)

The simple fact of the matter is the Big East has been fighting for scraps ever since the realignment carousel really kicked into full-gear -- first in 2004, then again in 2011 -- and conceding a name to a group of schools that wishes to do business elsewhere won't give way to any sort of renaissance era for the conference.

The college landscape is funny and unpredictable. The Big 12 looked left for dead less than three years ago but has managed to survive and thrive since. The Big East may have lost future football chips in Boise State and San Diego State, but it can use this episode as a chance to re-connect with its metropolitan roots.

Roots that, by any definition, have been planted East.