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Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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The Big East Without Football: An Update

This post was originally written 3/10 13. Fascinating how this has turned out.

“Yesterday’s Providence College/UConn game marked the effective end of the Big East Conference. What brought about its demise? Success. Money. The promise of more money. And a profound lack of historical perspective on the part of schools like UConn that have failed to remember from whence they came, and how they’ve come to their present state.

Once upon a time UConn was a sleepy little state college lying in a sleepy little cowtown in Nowhere, CT. UConn had no athletic history to speak of; it played its games against the likes of UVM, UNH, URI. UMass and UMaine. Heck, the athletics in that group couldn’t even sustain football across the board–UVM dropped the sport in 1974. Not a lot has changed at the other schools. The campuses have grown a bit, enrollment has expanded a bit, but the athletic programs maintain their status as a pleasant diversion accompanying the educational process.

But UConn? Noooo, not UConn. You see Dave Gavitt invited UConn to join the Big East Conference in 1974 and the world tilted. Millions and millions of dollars have poured into Storrs and the campus is virtually unrecognizable to graduates of my era. Enrollment, building, and the endowment have soared. UConn is now a “football school” and it departs the Big East, leaving the largely Catholic “basketball schools” behind as it chases ever more wealth. Success has been found.

End of story, right? Little school makes big time. All is right in the world. Right? Hmmm…I dunno. You see, it’s basketball that has driven this success, and it was basketball that created the Big East. It was basketball and the Big East that made Storrs big enough to find on the map. Basketball, and a bunch of originally like-minded “Basketball Schools” that brought measures of success and wealth to every school in the conference, albeit not equally.

What’s been lost? Tradition. History. The “kindredship” of a group of schools that were of a different ilk, or more accurately different ilks when we compare them with “Football Schools”. The Big East was a kind of special, the first grouping of schools assembled in the pursuit of athletics based NOT on football. There’s a certain absence of something like gratitude in the dissolution of the Big East in the pursuit of football riches. It feels almost like UConn has lost its institutional sense of its own identity.

Will UConn find those riches as it chases wealth for wealth’s sake, forsaking history, tradition, and a sense of who and what it has been? Tune in, I guess. There will be lessons to be learned by other institutions that have grown and become successful within an ecosystem of like-minded institutions with a common tradition and history. Are the presumably greater riches to be found in leaving behind the history, tradition, and culture greater than the wealth to be found in the history, tradition and culture?

Tune in.”


Lo and behold things haven’t turned out all that well for the schools that chased the football dollars. No sign of UConn in this year’s March Madness. Ditto Syracuse. Look carefully, though, and you’ll find defending champion Villanova along with tiny littles Seton Hall and Providence.

At least for now the score reads History/Tradition/Culture 1, football riches 0.

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4 Responses to “The Big East Without Football: An Update”

  1. March 16th, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    Jeremy jenners says:

    U r a complete morron syracuse has massive scholarship restrictions along w multiple 1to 2 and dones at gaurd position a key position. 2 final 4s w all that bs i stated in 3 yrs oh thats awful. Uconn whom im no fan of but they lost a legend coach and had restrictions along w a title . Bc is and always was garbage so thats about the only thing ur dumb statement has

  2. March 17th, 2017 at 5:57 pm

    drwhite says:

    Fair points on Syracuse’s Final 4 appearances, although invoking the restrictions does weaken your position a bit since you can’t possibly say that Syracuse was blameless in that. This year they don’t even make the tournament. Trend? Eh, who knows? UConn also bears responsibility for restrictions, and since their post-legendary coach victory with a new coach (and old players) they’ve done…well…what? If Syracuse bounces back next year I will circle back and agree more strongly on the hoops thing.

    Oh yeah…there would be that football riches/success thing. How’s that working out for Syracuse, BC, and UConn?

  3. March 17th, 2017 at 7:04 pm

    Jeremy jenners says:

    Syracuse football was in a hrrible place and we dud just lose a head coach to nfl so… we whipped va tech this yr and had the 5th hardest schedule in nation w massive i juries as Qb 3 yrs in a row actually 4. We just built a huge facikity indoor for practice acc money. Syracuse literally kept that piece of crap leauge together for 25 yrs trying to stay and get schools like ur boys villinova to up grade football they refused. Hows that big east working for g town huh. U conn got left behind and had no choice they woulf b worse off actually all those mentioned would b worse off as the big east driffted farter and farther away. How about louisville its been good for them and va tech and to the restrictions syeacuse recieved the harshest punishments to violation ratio ever. L ville bought hookers for 16 yr old kids w the schools money yet they wont get sh@t unc fake classes for 27 yrs to boost players grades wont see anything basically after the ncaa lambasted us shortly after what happened at psu the ncaa realized they were about to have all the p5 schools leave so they have backed off on harsh penalties. So we r left crapped on w 12 less kids plus all the 1 and dones. Su football is on the up for sure or talent facilities and over all reputation on up even w 6th hardest schedule this coming season

  4. March 19th, 2017 at 6:26 pm

    drwhite says:

    Not a team in the country in any conference at any level will escape the issues you note. They are irrelevant in the discussion. My original post and its original thesis, that the Big East “football schools” have been lessened in both substance and spirit, still holds water. I am actually a Boeheim fan and sincerely cheer for his (and SU’s) success; I take little pleasure in their upset in the NIT yesterday. But my sentiment remains the same: a pox on the lot of them (and a continued pox on the NCAA for the two-faced behavior you mention) for the narrow-minded, small-vision, ungrateful and unmindful of history decision to abandon a group that enhanced the athletic reputation of each of them–even Syracuse with its storied football, basketball, and lacrosse legacies– in the tawdry pursuit of nothing more than money.

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