Big East conference rumored to expand

The Big East conference is looking at the possibility of expanding to a 12-team athletic conference, according to an interview in The Athletic with Big East Commissioner Val Ackerman

The decision is seemingly influenced by the Big East’s expiring 12-year media deal with Fox, which will end in 2025. Increasing the competitiveness of the conference could increase the odds of a larger media deal. Ackerman and the Big East began this process two years ago after they allowed the University of Connecticut (UConn) back into the conference after a seven-year stay in the American Athletic Conference. 

Now, as the Big East is stuck with an odd number of teams and a chance at a larger media deal down the line, it only makes sense to expand the conference with one more team. 

The Big East is filled with mostly mid-major, private, religion-based schools. And, apparently having the color blue as one of your school’s primary colors is important (except for St. John’s). 

“What keeps us in a prime position in respect to our media rights?” Ackerman said in her interview with The Athletic. “It’s about quality basketball programming. What school would help us with our basketball aspirations, men’s and women’s? What school lines up with our existing values? What school would help us with respect to our primary revenue stream, and national TV revenue?”

In a nutshell, Gonzaga is the easiest answer. Evidenced by their most recent AP No. 1 ranking in the men’s basketball preseason poll, they fit right into the Big East’s basketball-centric conference and their desire for national attention over the Power Five conferences. 

However, as Dana O’Neil of The Athletic pointed out, they’re on the wrong side of the country and don’t fit the geographical component. Ackerman noted that geography plays a large role in deciding who they would invite to the conference. This notation is reminiscent of Gonzaga missing out on joining the Big East back 

Other media outlets have suggested schools like Wichita State, VCU, Dayton or Memphis. The conference is seeking a basketball-heavy school that can geographically meet the standards of being close to its current competition. 

Wichita State and Memphis come from the AAC, VCU from the highly competitive ACC and Dayton from the Athletic 10. All fit the criteria of becoming members of the Big East based on their priority on basketball and having the right location.

The Big East will have to decide whether or not they bend the norm to allow more public schools  (VCU, Memphis, Wichita State) to the current sector of public schools (Butler, Connecticut) in the Big East. 

The factors are truly unknown outside of Ackerman’s committee, but there is likely to be an emphasis on a school that can bring in the most attention to the conference, making the deal remunerative. 

The Big East’s current media deal with FOX came during a conference armageddon when several major conferences split into new ones back in 2012 — including the Big East. Six teams left the Big East between 2012-14, leaving an entirely new conference. 

The seven teams that left the conference — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova — were dubbed the “Catholic 7” by the media, but agreed to purchase the naming rights of “The Big East Conference” after leaving. 

The teams formed their own basketball-centric conference without any FBS football teams to serve as a brand new conference, simultaneously inking a 12-year media deal with Fox too. 

The conference hopes to gain a more lucrative deal now having 12 members of the conference instead of 10. 

The DePaul men’s basketball team hasn’t had a winning record in the conference since the 2006-07 season. They’re currently going through a rebuild with the all-new coaching staff and half of the roster going into their first season at DePaul. 

As for women’s basketball, their history as a program is quite the opposite of the men’s. But, they’re currently battling demons (no pun intended) with UConn, who hasn’t missed the NCAA tournament since 1989 and has 11 national titles to their name. 

“Championship Experience” is athletic director DeWayne Peevy’s third bullet point on his five-year strategic plan for rebuilding DePaul. A big-name addition to the conference can only help DePaul get closer to that goal with tougher opponents to play twice per year.