Philadelphia Remember that it’s always about the “student-athlete.”
In a world more populated by frauds every second, college sports may have more frauds per square inch than any endeavor on earth.
Administrators preach education and practice business, cold-hearted, ruthless business. Athletic programs are for sale to the highest bidder.
But if a “student-athlete” gets free tattoos or sells memorabilia, that teenager or young adult is branded, suspended and sometimes ruled permanently ineligible.
Witness the latest deal — Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The Big East was formed in 1979 as a conference that would marry basketball and cable television in the Northeast. It was the brainchild of Dave Gavitt, one of the great basketball/business minds of the 20th century. It has been so successful that since 1982, conference teams have accounted for 17 Final Fours and six national championships, not to mention a jammed Madison Square Garden each March for its tournament, a massive TV presence, and a gigantic fan base.
The iconic program in conference history has been Syracuse, one of seven charter members.
It was more than a bit ironic that the moves were announced on the weekend Gavitt passed away. A great coach at Providence and an even better administrator, Gavitt saw the future three decades ago. He also probably saw this, too. He just could not have been terribly happy about it.
One has to keep in mind that none of this conference chaos is about basketball or, of course, the student-athletes. It is all about football and the cold, hard cash generated by the BCS cartel.
It may be against the rules for a player to market himself, but there is no rule about a school attempting to find the best market for itself.
When in doubt, follow the money. The NCAA is in the midst of a $10.8 billion, 14-year contract with Turner and CBS for the basketball tournament. But that money is used to fund the NCAA operations in Indianapolis and is distributed among the schools in a relatively benevolent, socialistic way.
The big boys don’t get fat from basketball. They get fat from football. The conferences, not the NCAA, control the football money generated from television. Which is why there is no playoff, something that would have to be administered and controlled by the NCAA.
The cartel does not want to share that money so, school by school, it is consolidating into super conferences.
So what happens to leagues like the Big East when schools like Syracuse and Pittsburgh, a member since 1982, head out the back door? And what happens when some of the other six remaining football schools look for a better landing spot?
It was just last spring when Villanova was prepared to say yes to Big East football, ready to make the monetary commitment it would take to get a seat at the cartel’s table.
The Big East told Villanova to wait. Imagine if Villanova had made that commitment to a league that looks a whole lot different today than it did then.
In the short term, ACC basketball just went way up with perennial powers Syracuse and Pittsburgh.
Big East hoops took a serious hit. When the move is finalized, there will be no more Syracuse at the Wells Fargo Center, no more Pitt-’Nova classics. No matter how it plays out, it will never be the same.
UConn is probably the key to what goes down next. Jim Calhoun’s team has won half those Big East national titles. The football team won the 2010 league championship. If UConn goes to the ACC, the Big East is done.