The University of Tulsa is Big East bound. Sort of. Here are 10 questions and observations about the realignment as it pertains to TU and its new league.
1. Is Tulsa joining the new Big East? Or is it the old Big East? Or is it the old new Big East. Or is it the new old Big East?
ESPN has taken to calling the Catholic 7 the “new Big East,” even though I think it’s the old Big East. As in old, old Big East.
The Big East has fractured, and the remnants of its origin – Georgetown, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova, Providence – have aligned with the other non-football schools in the conference (DePaul, Marquette) to break away, form their own league and take the Big East name with them. They’ve added Butler, Creighton and Xavier for a 10-team league that will look not so totally different from the league that took college basketball by storm when formed in 1979.
2. A few weeks ago, when I interviewed TU basketball coach Danny Manning, he talked about the possible move to the Big East and said the Big East name still carried clout. Now Tulsa is joining a league that does not yet have a name but certainly won’t be called the Big East.
Do you remember one of the early “Happy Days” episodes, before they turned Fonzie into a comic book character? Richie and Potsie had an old car that wasn’t running. Fonzie fixed it for them and Potsie said, how can we repay you? Whatever you want. Fonzie spied the eagle ornament on the hood, hit the metal just right and took off with the eagle.
Potsie looked at Richie and said, “He took the best part of the car.”
When the Catholic 7 took off with the Big East name, they took the best part of the conference.
3. What will the leftover Big East be called? It’s got a May 2 deadline to decide – at least according to demands by the old, old Big East.
Conference USA already is taken, but that’s in effect what it is.
Tulsa in 2014 will be in a league with Tulane, SMU, Houston, Memphis, Central Florida and East Carolina – meaning seven of Conference USA’s members from the last decade will form the old, but not old old, Big East.
Let’s see. The old, but not old old, Big East will have schools in Tulsa, Dallas, Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, Orlando, Tampa, Philadelphia and Cincinnati. Alas, other ports are Greenville, N.C.; Annapolis, Md.; and Storrs, Conn. So the Metro Conference won’t work.
Which is too bad. The Metro was formed in 1975 with Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Memphis, Saint Louis and Tulane. Florida State, Virginia Tech, Southern Miss and South Carolina later joined. Georgia Tech only lasted until 1978, but the others made it into the 1990s. The Metro eventually merged with the Great Midwest to form Conference USA.
4. Is Tulsa better off with the old, but not old old, Big East? Or would the Mountain West have been a better fit?
The Mountain West will be a better conference. Its football will be better, and its basketball, at least right now, is just as good.
But Tulsa will have better rivalries in the old, but not old old, Big East. SMU and Houston. Memphis and Tulane. Even Cincinnati is an old Missouri Valley foe.
And while it would be cool for Tulsa to forge football rivalries with the likes of Boise State and San Diego State, it will be equally cool to play the likes of Temple and UConn in basketball.
5. The biggest loser in all this? Easy. Connecticut.
The Huskies were in the Fiesta Bowl against OU a couple of years ago, but a major bowl now seems a difficult goal for UConn.
And Connecticut has lost its basketball base. The Huskies became a national power as they battled Syracuse and Georgetown and Villanova and Louisville in the Big East.
Put a truth serum in UConn, and the Huskies might admit to regretting getting into the big-time football business. Play small-college football, and Connecticut could still be in a league with its heavyweight hoops pals.
6. The same might be said of Memphis and maybe Cincinnati.
7. How will Tulsa’s divisions be split? Clearly, TU, Houston, SMU, Memphis and Tulane should be together. But who else? Cincinnati probably is the best bet.
That would leave Central Florida, South Florida, East Carolina, Navy, Temple and UConn in a division.
8. You know Cincinnati and UConn are just dying to get into the ACC. And it very well could happen. Which means Tulsa shouldn’t get too comfortable with the Huskies and Bearcats.
9. But initially, still a good basketball league. UConn, Memphis, Cincinnati. Tulsa suddenly will be in a hoops league that will get 3-4 NCAA Tournament berths a year. That’s a serious upgrade from Conference USA.
10. The old old Big East gets Madison Square Garden for its basketball tournament. Don’t expect the old, but not old old, Big East to come to Tulsa for its tournament any time soon. The political clout in this conference has definitely shifted east.