Adios, Big East
by Jim Alderson, 6/15/04

Virginia Techís final piece of financial business with what will soon be another of our former conferences has been concluded. Well, at least the agreement, anyway. The Athletic Director has negotiated downward the last of the extortion money extracted by the Big East for allowing us to participate in their basketball conference that contributed so greatly to our recent fortunes. We have agreed to pay whatís left of that league $1.1 extra large. The AD said it would be paid via lump sum in "a year or two" when we get around to it. Hopefully, the entire amount will be remitted with twenty-two million nickels dropped onto the floor of the office of Mike Tranghese with all of the BE presidents and ADs in attendance. It would be interesting and fitting watching them scramble around the room chasing every last nickel and stretching their arms under the office furniture to collect them.

This will mark Techís last dealings with that bunch of thieves who could teach the Columbo Family a thing or two about shaking people down. The dismantling of their football power certainly hasnít taught these extortion artists a thing, as BE charter member UConn. When they run out of schools from whom they can extract both conference entrance and exit fees at the same time, as they did Tech, they will turn to eating their own. How typically Big East. Enjoy paying the tribute, Huskies.

Being treated as something other than a full and valued conference member may be a new experience for UConn, as their reward for fattening the NCAA basketball checks for other BE members is to not be allowed to receive a full share, or any, of the BCS monies garnered by the Liíl E while they are still in the BCS. It is not for Tech. What the BE presidents and ADs consider just normal business practices is also no longer our problem. Very shortly, we are gone.

With Tech only July 1 and a final wringing of the Athletic Departmentís bank account from ceasing to be associated with such a collection of scoundrels, it is time to bid the remaining members a not-so-fond adieu.

It will not be farewell to Boston College, only good-bye for now. BC will be joining us in the ACC after a year in Liíl E purgatory. Enjoy those trips this year to Morgantown and Pittsburgh, Eagles. Quite frankly, if it were up to me, Fredo would be consigned to Liíl E irrelevance until the end of athletics time, but it was not. Duke, the deciding vote when it came to BC, decided that. Iím sure the future Duke-BC football clashes will be titanic ones. I plan on swallowing hard and rooting for BC to win everything in the Liíl E this year; I would find it gratifying for an ACC team to win a BE football championship for the sixth straight time. See you soon, Fredo.

If the ACC presidents had consulted me when selecting a twelfth team, I would have recommended Rutgers. Yes, those lovable losers from New Jersey. They seemed to me to be almost everything a conference could want in a new member; RU is a large state university with good academics located in a prime area of the east coast. What more could you want? The answer, of course, is a better football program than one that has been every bit the laughingstock as is Duke. The ACC didnít desire another one.

The fact that Rutgers has always been so miserably lousy in football has always baffled me. How could a well-financed program with tons of well-heeled alumni, the only I-A program, using the designation ĎI-AĎ loosely, in a state bursting at the seams with terrific high school football players not be good? It was difficult to pull off, but the Knights managed it. When the BEFC was first formed, it seemed to me that the two schools who would benefit the most would be Virginia Tech and Rutgers. These are the guys who seemingly had everything going for them and should have accomplished what Tech did. It didnít happen. From almost the very instant the BEFC began play, Tech rocketed up the standings while Rutgers not only dropped to the league basement but gave new meaning to the term. The Knights became so bad that they eventually even shoved woeful Temple aside and began digging like gangsters in Giants Stadium with the body of Jimmy Hoffa to discover new depths to which their football program could sink. Temple had a number of 1-10 records during their stay in the BEFC, but only Rutgers could boast of an 0-11. They are finally showing signs of football life, but it looks to be too little, too late. So long, Rutgers.

We would have another year of playing Temple, but their brass decided that hosting the Hoos was preferable to traveling to Lane one final time, and cancelled on us. So it is bye-bye, Temple. The Owls join Fredo in only having to endure one year in the Liíl E, but for a very different reason. A conference that has been mortally wounded and was forced to accept the likes of Louisville still saw fit to continue with its decision to bounce Temple. It is bad enough to be thrown from a BCS conference, a humiliation no other school has ever endured, but to be pitched out of one that is simultaneously begging for members with decent football teams would seem to indicate that I-A college football is not long for Broad Street. It is not a good situation, but Temple joined the BE at the exact same time Tech did and had available to them the exact same opportunities. That Tech is moving on to better things while Temple is facing football oblivion is the fault of no one but Temple. Best of luck, Owls.

Tech is through losing games in the Fourth Quarter to Pittsburgh. Pitt, with access to the best athletic facilities taxpayer money can buy, now finds themselves with reduced opportunities for giving the wallet-lightened Pennsylvania citizens a decent return on their investment. Somehow I doubt that Cincinnati will sell out Ketchup Field as did Tech. As the Pitt administration spends much time in Chicago begging the Big 11 to quit waiting for NBC to ditch Notre Dame, hereís something they can chew on: Pittís decision in the early 80's to cast their lot with the Big East rather than Joe Paternoís proposed Eastern Seaboard Conference sent Penn State scurrying to the same Big 11 that the Panthers are now begging to join. I wonder how they feel about that now? Buh-bye, Pitt.

We were never actually in a football Big East with UConn. Tech played them twice in football, pounding them silly both times, and they returned the favor in basketball with the notable exception of one memorable night in Cassell. The Huskies have gotten a tough deal and for a while I felt sorry for them. I got over it. Their former AD Lew Perkins tried for a decade to wrangle a new stadium out of the Connecticut legislature, since the beginning of the BEFC. They waited too late. Had they begun conference football play in 1994 instead of 2004 things might be a little different now. UConn was also a party to the deal that effectively ruined Techís basketball program. It is also a bit difficult to feel sorry for a school with the number of basketball banners the Huskies have hanging around Gempel Arena. The odds of doing the same in football have certainly become a lot longer, but UConn will be fine. Good-bye, Huskies.

One of the great ironies of the ACCís raid turning the BE into the Liíl E is what happened to Syracuse. They were the most reluctant of the original expansion targets and the ones dumped when Tech muscled its way in. The Orange get to remain with the league where their back-room dealings have contributed so much to its history and current football predicament. The various schemes and machinations hatched and undertaken by Syracuse led to many forks in the road as the BE traveled to its present situation. Every time the Orange reached one of those forks, they managed to take the wrong one. Every single time.

It was Syracuse that convinced first BC then Pitt to hook up with a bunch of basketball schools, thus cutting JoePaís Eastern league off at the knees. Instead of what would today be the countryís most dominant conference, they get South Florida. It was Syracuse in 1994 who first promised to split off into a new conference with the BEFC schools and then turned around and conjured up the plan that kept the BE together but excluded Tech. Instead of creating a conference that would have been perfectly positioned for expansion, they watch as Tech heads out with its ESPN money. And finally, when the conference dissolution that their plotting had virtually assured would happen did, it was Syracuse that trusted the word of Donna Shalala. It is a truly remarkable record. See ya, Orange.

While we can be assured that there will be very few Liíl E schools who will schedule us in the future in much of anything, one with whom we have a bit of unfinished business is our old friends at WVU. Hopefully there will be sufficient funds left in the war chest amassed by our Athletic Director used to buy our way out of the BE to buy out Techís scheduled trip there in 2005. The quicker Tech has nothing to do with the Cousins, the better, as far as I am concerned. That Rich Rodriguez seems to be putting together a pretty fair program only to have the competitive rug pulled out from under him is nothing but a source of amusement to me.

To those ĎNeers thumping their chests about how terrific things are going to be now that the football talent is gone from their league, I would point them southward to study the example of East Carolina. The Pirates were a top ten team following the 1991 season but their exclusion from the Big East and all of the television and bowl opportunities that flowed from that association has created a very different situation in Greenville today. The reduction in television revenue and quality bowl opportunities facing todayís Liíl E is going to make it tough for WVU. I have no doubt that the budget for that excellent WVU arson team will be left untouched, but all of the other ones will face pressures.. Lot Ďoí luck, ĎNeers. Good-bye and by the way, you can consider us even for 1994.

It hardly seemed as if we were in the same league as Notre Dame. For the most part we werenít. There were a couple of basketball games but no football ones, as the Irish considered themselves above sharing a football field with Tech. Notre Dame received the sweetest deal ever handed out by a conference to a quasi-member and will continue to as long as NBC writes an annual check. Chances are ND will end up in the Big 11 one of these days, but in the meantime, who can blame them for grabbing what they can from a league that is so willing to be reamed? It is no longer our problem. Ciao, Irish.

This leaves only final farewells to the BE basketball schools. They are hardly worth the effort. Georgetown, St. Johnís, Seton Hall, Villanova and Providence. It is because of this bunch that the Northeast has been splintered into several conferences rather than a true major all-sports ones. I have nothing to say to them other than to cheerfully wish upon them a journey straight to the nether regions and thank Techís lucky stars that we are no longer associated with the likes of that crowd.

The days still to be crossed off my office calendar have dwindled to a precious few. The Big East is now a part of Techís history. It was a platform for some glorious history, as the conference enabled Tech to achieve heights only dreamed of prior to our membership. It was all they gave us. Tech seized the opportunity and created its own football success, a Tech triumph that now moves on to a bigger stage in a far more cohesive league. The entire Big East benefited from Techís football prowess but in return seemed to do little more than offer a single finger as a salute and extract severe financial tolls to pad their own pockets, a shaking down that will continue even after weíre gone. But, gone we will be, as Tech is now free of them, save for one final bit of blood money. Virginia Tech now departs for its ultimate conference destiny.

Adios, Big East. Weíre outta here.

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