NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – After the ACC made a surprise move into the conference realignment shuffle, the spotlight now shifts to the struggling Big East.
Speaking on a conference call late Sunday afternoon, Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti said he was not surprised when fellow conference members Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced during the weekend they were jumping to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The trend toward 16-team superconferences picked up steam when the ACC announced it was officially picking off the two longtime Big East schools to continue cannibalizing its northern neighbor. Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College had already left the league for the ACC in recent years, and now the Big East is left trying to hang on to its remaining football members and find a way to survive in an ever-changing college sports landscape.
And it could get even worse for the conference.
According to the New York Post, Rutgers and UConn have had “increased conversation with the ACC and Big Ten Conferences in the last 48 hours.”
“The (Big East’s) instability has created the growing possibility that the basketball-only schools could seek a split from the football-playing schools,” the New York Daily News reported on Monday, “and put the wheels in motion to form their own Catholic league.”
UConn President Susan Herbst said Sunday she believes it’s her responsibility to be “actively involved in discussions with … counterparts from around the country to ensure the successful long-term future of the university’s athletic department.”
“We’re continuing to be engaged in talks with several parties,” Rutgers’ Pernetti said. “I think that has been the case for more than the past 36 hours. It has always been our practice to try to keep those talks private.”
The second-year AD said the university would base its final decision on what is best for the school.
“This time things seem to be moving more quickly than a year ago,” Pernetti added, refusing to commit to the Big East nor express interest in joining the exodus to the ACC. “If that’s a sign of things to come, it is hard to say, but I do think as more pieces continue to be in motion it starts to trickle down to more people in the process.
“I would imagine the next 30 days are going to be a telling period of time for our entire industry.”
The movement toward megaconferences has centered around leveraging billion-dollar television contracts at the expense of traditional rivalries and simpler logistics. The Big Ten showed everyone the potential with a first-of-its-kind conference network, and the Pac-12 also turned its increased membership into a big-time TV deal.
The ACC is following suit with its move to 14 teams.
The ACC seemed to cement its future together by not only adding members but increasing the exit penalty to $20 million. The Big East’s exit fee is only $5 million, but schools wanting to leave are supposed to provide 27 months’ notice.
By then, the shifts in college athletics could touch every school from the BCS level on down. With UConn and Rutgers among the schools already being mentioned if the ACC expands again, Commissioner John Swofford said the league is “not philosophically opposed to 16″ members.
The leftover teams in the Big East will need to find new dance partners to keep their status as BCS automatic qualifiers, if that system even survives.
“I can say that in all my years of collegiate athletics administration, I’ve never seen this level of uncertainty and potential fluidity in schools and conferences,” Swofford said. “Schools, they’re looking for stability, and when that stability doesn’t exist, for whatever reason, as long as that’s going on, I think the conferences that appear to be stable moving forward are going to receive inquiries from schools that are desirous of having that kind of stability.”
No one wants to be left behind.
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