To Expand or Not to Expand?

It was basically a one line blow-by in a piece filled with quick hitters by ESPN's Dick Vitale. Here is the small blurb related to the Big East:

The addition of Stu Jackson by the Big East as senior associate commissioner is a great move. He will be a big help for the conference. The Big East should look to expand and Dayton and Detroit would be good markets to consider.

The first part is a nice compliment about the hiring of Stu Jackson to head up Big East men's basketball. But then the last line is a little puzzling. Before I get into whether I think the Big East should expand right now or not let me know just say that Detroit is not in the discussion. I'll chalk that one up to Dickie V throwing a bone to the school he used to coach at in the late 1970's.

Expansion and realignment has been a hot topic in college athletics for a number of years now. The Big East managed to come out of the realignment mess in pretty good shape all things considered. The conference has a lucrative media deal with Fox Sports 1 and the member institutions, both new and old, are all similar in mission and outlook which is a return to the roots of the original Big East Dave Gavitt started 35 years ago. Despite things looking to be solid right now for the Big East, there are those that believe the conference shouldn't stand pat. Some people want to add more schools to the mix. I'm not one of those people.

To add another 2, 4 or 6 teams at this point just doesn't seem prudent. The conference is already struggling to shake the "mid-major" label by many who believe that the conference must be a mid-major now that they don't have power conference football (even though the previous incarnation of the Big East that did had crappy power conference football). Adding more small, basketball-centric schools would only further that argument. Additionally, with the strong possibility that autonomy will soon pass, finding schools that fit the profile the Big East Presidents want that can also afford to implement the full cost of tuition provisions and other autonomy-related measures will be increasingly difficult.

From a selfish fan perspective, I also absolutely love the round robin scheduled that the conference has with 10 teams. I think playing everyone in the conference home and home makes things more exciting and allows potential new rivalries to form. The revenge factor is also in play every year. Also, the 10 teams that are in the league are already in some of the largest media markets in America. Short of adding a team from LA, I'm not sure the overall value exists to adding another team from Ohio (Dayton) or a team from Virginia (Richmond) when there is already a school in the league that covers that market.

The reality is that there are very few schools that fit the mold of mission, TV market and quality of basketball to make expansion worth it. Many people mention schools like Saint Louis, Dayton, Richmond, VCU, etc. The common belief is that were the Big East to expand, the conference would raid the Atlantic 10. The problem with that is many of those schools overlap in city and/or TV market with a current Big East school. So then the question becomes, are you adding value or just quantity? Maybe one day Fox calls Val Ackerman and demands expansion to increase game inventory but until that day comes, no expansion for me.

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