Jeff Jacobs: Don't believe anybody in this Big East expansion

By Jeff Jacobs

The Hartford Courant

Published: Saturday, Dec. 10 2011 8:00 p.m. MST

So check back in 2014 and 2016. Check back in 2018, because if this conference is still intact the way it is now configured then, well, I volunteer to walk all the way from Storrs to Boise, Idaho. Because if this cockamamie plan somehow works, if San Diego State, Seton Hall, Boise State and UConn somehow comes to make perfect sense, well, Boise will be the Mecca of the Big East.

Forget Madison Square Garden. Forget the Saturday night in March. We will all be screaming, "Viva! Boise!"

If this unwieldy, cumbersome Frankenstein of a conference survives, Boise will be the Promised Land. It'll be there Marinatto, who kept on talking Wednesday about how the Big East has repeatedly "reinvented" itself, will be allowed to bask in his own private Idaho.

"Four different time zones will allow us the potential to schedule four football games on a given Saturday back-to-back-to-back-to-back without any overlap," he said. "It's a powerful model we believe will be unmatched by any other conference."

That statement struck me as entire bull cookies. If back to back-to-back-to-back was the goal you could do that with 11, 2:30, 5, 7:30 and 10 starts on the East Coast. The Big East already plays on virtually every night of the week to squeeze a dime from ESPN.

Burned so many times, Marinatto is clearly hedging his bets now and it's understandable. He's insisting on keeping the departing schools to the 27-month regulations. "The bylaws are the bylaws are the bylaws," he said.

If all five news schools, plus another service academy or two, do arrive in the Big East in 2013, there will be no need to keep a miserable WVU, Syracuse and Pitt. Cut deals. Let them go.

On this day, Marinatto had so few answers for so many of the nuances of scheduling, etc. There obviously needs to be all sorts of work done. Yet one red flag did rise when he talked about a commitment to facilitate games between football-only and full-fledged members in basketball.

Basketball already has had enough shoved down its throats. Basketball is the reason for the Big East's existence and Marinatto is playing a very dangerous game of watering down the hoops product. The presidents would be wise to heed the words of Rick Pitino and Jim Calhoun and include Temple in expansion. Not only would it add an elite basketball program, it would give more geographic integrity to a conference that is stretched too thin to last permanently.

In a released statement, UConn President Susan Herbst, who previously expressed fear student-athletes would spend too much time traveling, talked up the geographic expansion as a way to showcase the school. Given the desperate circumstances, what else could Herbst say?

When TCU left, the Big East lost the football program that could keep the Big East AQ boat afloat. And when WVU bolted, the boat clearly was sinking fast. Marinatto needed Boise State in the worst way. The only way for it to happen was a Western partner. BYU said no. San Diego State said yes and, voila, sea to shining sea.

Of course, it's a geographical joke. But if Boise State saves the Big East bacon, man, the school will be up there with Dave Gavitt, Mike Tranghese, Georgetown of the '80s, Jim, Geno, the Miami football national championships. And if doesn't ...

"UConn is not in discussion with any other athletic conference officials at this time," Herbst told the Associated Press in an email.

That surely is true.

And it would just as surely change with one phone call from the 336.

(c)2011 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com. Distributed by MCT Information Services

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