Blog Entry

The moment realignment got real for basketball

Posted on: September 19, 2011 10:30 am
Edited on: September 19, 2011 10:36 am

By Matt Norlander

Suddenly, over the weekend, it started to feel real. Really real, really fast.

Conference realignment -- two words everyone's quickly adapting as cringe-worthy as "Brett Favre" -- just had its first corporeal, wide-ranging impact on college basketball. Before this, the BYU, Texas A&M, Colorado, Boise State (what? Don't you realize it jumped form the WAC to the Mountain West?) and Nebraska scurries from one spot to another were fringe movements; the fray before the tear. They no doubt signaled a larger shift at work, but it wasn't until the swift -- and goodness was this FAST -- bolt from the Big East by Syracuse and Pitt that we really felt the revolt.

We finally have a tear.

The other schools jumping, like most of these decisions, if not all of them, were football-related. But I don't see how the case could be made this Syracuse/Pitt package deal was all about pigskin. This truly, tangibly shifted the perception and existence of the college basketball world.

Two schools leaving college basketball's latest and greatest conference, the best one we have (plenty claim the '09 Big East crop was the best assembled in the history of the game), to go to the old-school best conference. Your older brother's and father's best basketball conference. And with that shift, the ACC can claim perennial paramount over the sport's landscape once again. You don't think that had as much to do with leaving as television/football money down the road? It certainly did.

And the fallout came fast over the weekend. Who knows which school presidents are talking to which conferences now. The rearrangement everyone claimed was coming (and because everyone claimed it was coming, is that why it transpired?) is here. We're fully in the throes. It's clear: Texas A&M may have "tripped the wire" on realignment in 2011, but Syracuse and Pittsburgh undoubtedly shook the foundation on which East Coast college sports rest on. The Big East as we know it is dead and gone, haphazardly and ironically eased into the coffin by one of its founding members in Syracuse.

And so the next question everyone has waits before us. What's next of the Big East? Well, what of the ACC as well? Seems pretty clear based off ACC commissioner John Swofford's quotes that 14 is merely an overnight stay of a number for the league. Could we be at 16 by week's end? And if we are, who are the next two schools? If UConn gets an invite and accepts (which it would), then the Big East gets a full downgrade by any pragmatic measure.

Just a few of the questions that come to mind: What will happen with Madison Square Garden? Will the ACC adopt its postseason in the same amateur way the Big East does/did? Does this affect the tenures of any coaches in their 60s (Boeheim, Williams, K, Calhoun)? And a big one the coaches are vested in: How does this alter the recruiting strategies for all big players involved? For the past 13 months, college football's culture -- its teams, school presidents, ADs, fans and writers -- got busy worrying, ranting, predicting, diagramming and explaining away what was happening in its sport. College basketball politely and quietly stood on the outer circle, taking an occasional piece of shrapnel to the face out of self-mandated loyalty to big brother's fight.

But now the fight is college basketball's, too. Now the future of the sport is truly changing and the traditions, identities, patterns and grooves of the sport as we know it are mutating are an alarming speed. How we see the sport today isn't how we saw it a week ago. And in a week's time, the view could change again.

Photo: AP
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