Realigning with Class

The ACC has shown how it should not be done. Its time now to show there still can be collegiality in college athletics, that gentlemen and ladies can work out their differences to mutually agreeable results. It's just too bad it didn't happen first in that southern state of North Carolina, where most folks still pride themselves on their genteel manners and polite way of life. It may be up to a brusque Yankee to show them how ...

Big East commissioner Michael Tranghese said the Big East would use a markedly different approach in issuing invitations compared to the ACC, which contacted individual schools before notifying the Big East.

Tranghese has said he has already spoken to the heads of the other conference most likely to be effected by the domino effect of realignment, Conference-USA commissioner Britton Bannowsky and Atlantic-10 commissioner Linda Bruno. "We're talking about a process, and I've given them both my word that they won't be blindsided." Tranghese said. "When we arrive at a decision, we will share it with them before we approach schools."

He should take it one step farther – sit down with them and work out realigning their respective conference memberships in a way that benefits all of them.

The die is cast. The BCS system may not survive. We, the fans, may finally get a playoff system for the biggest and best college football teams in the land. But no matter what major changes may take place in the future, a two-division conference with a football conference championship is the cornerstone for football success. The SEC and the Big 12 made it happen, the ACC is on the road, with the PAC 10 and Big 10 likely to follow. The only question left is will the 12-team rule remain as a requirement for a championship game. I think it should.

So the challenge that remains for the best 12 football teams east of the Mississippi that are not currently in the SEC or ACC is to take advantage of the opportunity before them and create another all-sports super-conference of their own. If those football schools want to be in or remain at the top tier of college football, they must achieve the two goals now established for super-conference financial prosperity and national recognition: a conference championship game in football, followed by one or more BCS bids.

The Big East should end where it began – as a superb basketball conference. The irony is if the three commissioners did sit down and work it out, it probably wouldn't be called the Big East. The only thing currently tying the conference to football after it lost two football versions of "Beasts of the East" is its tenuous hold on a BCS slot. Therein lies its only advantage over Conference USA and the other conferences sure to be affected by the big-time collegiate dominoes game started by the ACC. So a reworked football conference coming out of such a meeting would probably be called the Big East.

The remaining non-football schools would be a super-basketball league, call it Conference USA. If Tranghese is serious about wanting to show the ACC how to realign in a classy manner, he should gracefully allow the basketball members of the Big East to depart without penalty, and accept in return those C-USA members best suited for a football league. A new basketball conference could include 16 teams, a great number for a two-division basketball conference that cuts down on travel expenses, and the ideal number for a basketball tournament. Charlotte, Dayton, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Providence, Rutgers, St. Johns, Saint Louis, Seton Hall, Syracuse, Temple, Villanova, UAB, and Xavier would be an incredible hardwood conference.

The addition of a 12th team to the ACC, and the lifespan of a lawsuit going nowhere stand in the way of a quick and clean realignment process. If Notre Dame does not make the ACC's fondest wishes a reality, then it probably comes down to whether the East Carolina advocates in the North Carolina legislature can do for ECU what the Virginia politicians did for Virginia Tech. If that also unlikely scenario does not pan out, then Louisville is most likely to get the invitation for the 12th spot in the ACC.

Assuming Louisville's new home is in the ACC, the five remaining Big East football schools are Boston College, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and West Virginia. Add to that the five strongest C-USA football schools Cincinnati, East Carolina, Memphis, South Florida, and Southern Miss. Unfortunately, the Mid-American conference stands to lose its two best football schools in the Big East's bid to make a super-conference. Central Florida deserves a slot in a major conference, as does Marshall. Those two schools conference affiliation is the only piece lacking in their becoming the major programs they have worked hard to become. Look what the Big East did for Virginia Tech, and the SEC did for South Carolina. They both also fit in the footprint of a conference that by necessity is already stretched from New England to Florida.

A conference with its eyes on the next 25 years, not just the next 5-year television contract, will recognize the wisdom of including the less popular choices among these teams. If Louisville leaves Conference USA, the WAC is expected to invite Houston, Tulane, and Texas Christian, who are much better fit there anyway.

There will be teams left on the outside looking in during the process, its unavoidable. But by creating the best basketball-only league and creating a new 12-team all-sports super conference, what is in the best interest of the two new leagues will be paramount. It can be accomplished with class. There is incredible synergy when all the members of an organization have a united vision with laser focus on their shared objective. Both of the new leagues would.

Doug Jolley is a former newspaper editor and columnist, and a regular on as CockdelaVega.

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