The Big East is looking at some big chaos.
The league is having its summer meetings this week at Ponte Vedra Beach, and let’s hope people are not throwing clubs at each other when they hit the links to get away from the stress.
What happens up there will ultimately determine the fate of the University of South Florida.
There has been a lot of what can be called good, old-fashioned, filtered trash talking among adults that comes at you with smiles and words that Webster would find acceptable and gentlemanly like.
But the meaning behind the messages is laced with enough tongue-twisting arsenic to get David Stern’s attention.
Leave it to the crafty Jim Calhoun to throw a verbal Molotov cocktail that got everyone’s attention.
The Connecticut men’s basketball coach has been on a whirlwind since he won his third national title last month, traveling to 22 cities in 23 nights. At 69 and coming off two successful battles with cancer, Calhoun couldn’t resist showing up at Ponte Vedra after attending the Dick Vitale Gala on Friday night.
He predicts the disintegration of the Big East as we now know it if it adds more football schools.
Many see that as a reason to get it done.
The Big East football conference is in a quandary. Critics say it doesn’t deserve an automatic bid to a BCS Bowl, and with no ranked teams last year and league champ Connecticut embarrassing the conference in the Fiesta Bowl while losing a reported $1.6 million it’s hard to defend the league.
Texas Christian joins in 2012, bringing much needed football credibility, and there is talk of adding others with the usual names coming up in UCF, Houston, East Carolina, SMU and Memphis.
TCU will be the league’s 17th team. Rutgers and some others are pushing for 12. USF head football coach Skip Holtz said on a radio show in North Carolina recently that the league needed to look at 12, and he pushed for his former school, ECU.
Calhoun says if you add more, the non-football-playing schools in the Big East will bolt and form their own league.
His prediction has some shouting from the rooftops.
Let them go, is an echo you can hear from the Ponte Vedra links to the Jersey shore and up though Banks of the Raritan at Rutgers.
Under that scenario, the Big East would lose Georgetown, St. John’s, Marquette, DePaul, Villanova, Seton Hall and Providence and most likely Notre Dame, which wants to remain a football independent.
The other mentioned schools the Big East would pick up do not frighten Holtz, and it certainly would bring relief to the USF basketball program.
“I don’t want to see 18 teams. I won’t even know all the coaches,” Calhoun says. “The Big East is not the Southeastern Conference (in football), but nobody else is either. TCU is a power, and Syracuse is on its way back, and Rutgers will get better. We are only 11 or 12 years old in big-time football, and there is a chance to be very good.”
Calhoun says if the Big East goes to 10 football schools the eight non-football schools only need to add Xavier and Dayton and have pretty good league.
Just a few months ago, Villanova, an FCS (I-AA) power was talking about moving up to I-A, but the initial excitement over that has ebbed. The Wildcats would have to play in a soccer stadium that holds 18,500, and that would damage the league’s football image even more.
Calhoun doesn’t see USF getting excited about adding a UCF team that is so close.
But keeping UCF out could be a problem if the Big East expands. The argument gets tougher each year.
In the final college baseball RPI rankings this season, UCF has embarrassed the Big East. The Knights are 19th nationally, while the highest rated Big East team is UConn at 40. USF is a lowly 95 and didn’t even qualify for the conference tournament this week in Clearwater.
Calhoun says UCF doesn’t have that appealing name, but if the league expands to 12 and the Knights are not invited, that war on I-4 will move right to the doorstep of USF President Judy Genshaft.
An argument has been to kick Notre Dame out of the league if it won’t play football, but that’s a tough sell, especially for a conference that has a huge TV presence in the New York metropolitan area.
The only thing we know about the Big East right now is that we know nothing; that is unless you believe Calhoun.
Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 745-2112.