So what do the Big East's non-football schools do now that they've pulled the old it's-not-you-it's-me routine and broken up with the Big East? They can form their own seven-team conference, but a basketball league with Georgetown, Villanova, and Marquette isn't all that appealing when it also only includes St. John's, Providence, DePaul, and Seton Hall. ESPN reported the other day that the Atlantic 10 was considering adding the the newest Big East escapees. Under that scenario, the A-10 would become a 21-team league, though. The Philadelphia Inquirer says those ditching the Big East might be more apt to cherry-pick by forming a league with Xavier, Dayton, and Butler, and perhaps Saint Louis, Creighton, and Gonzaga.
One thing is certain: The seven Catholic schools departing the Big East don't have the clout they once did, and they're going to take a financial hit because they're no longer tethered to the Big East and its TV money. These schools will need to do something to make themselves attractive enough to lure a television deal of their own. They no longer have a choice.
The A-10 (which does not offer football) is one of the stronger basketball conferences in the country, having sent four teams to the NCAA tournament last year—as many as the SEC, and one fewer than the ACC. Adding VCU and Butler this season makes the A-10 possibly the best mid-major conference in the nation.
Not that Marquette AD Larry Williams has noticed. He was too busy this week looking down his nose and sorting through a time capsule. Williams went on ESPN Radio in Milwaukee on Tuesday to talk about the possibility of joining the A-10:
"When you think about the A-10, I don't even really view the remnants of the Big East in the same light as I do the A-10. There's no Georgetown in the A-10. Georgetown has won a national championship. There's no Marquette in the A-10. They've not won a national championship in their history. They have a couple of good schools and they have some nice quality across the board, but I certainly, and I know I'm being sort of a homer here, but I certainly think the Big East basketball schools present a profile that is superior to what the depth of the A-10 is."
Williams is absolutely being a homer here. Georgetown won its national title in 1984. Villanova won its a year later. Marquette won one lone championship in 1977. All three programs have reached the Final Four in the last 10 years, but the same can be said for Butler and VCU—and Butler's done it twice. There once was a time when Catholic schools ruled the college basketball landscape. But they've long ago ceded that dominance to state schools from the BCS conferences. Villanova's title in '85 remains the last one won by a Catholic school. The escapees can leave the Big East, but they can't go back to the '80s anymore.