SBD/November 28, 2012/Colleges

Riding The Realignment Wave: Tulane Joins Big East In All Sports, ECU For Football

Tulane yesterday announced it will move from Conference USA to the Big East in '14, and Tulane President Scott Cowen said that the move is the "biggest moment for Green Wave athletics in the 14 years" he has held that position, according to a front-page piece by Tammy Nunez of the New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE. The first question posed to Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco in the national teleconference regarding the addition of Tulane was "what the Big East found attractive in a university with poor recent results in football and basketball and meager fan numbers." But Aresco was "upbeat and pointed to Tulane's potential." He said, "They are part of our big-market strategy. We have obviously many large markets in our conference and our basketball schools are all in large markets." Nunez reports Rutgers' move to the Big Ten earlier this month was the piece that "broke loose Tulane's opportunity." Tulane AD Rick Dickson: "We've tried to keep our pulse on all this movement. I said to Scott early last week when the reports about Rutgers (broke), I said now is the time." Cowen said, "I'm not concerned at all about the future of the Big East. ... We obviously checked that out before we joined to make sure they were stable. Might a school or two leave? That might happen in any conference as we saw recently with the ACC." Nunez notes the exit fee to leave Conference USA is "in the neighborhood of a reported $7 million." Aresco "refused to comment on whether the Big East would help pay" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 11/28). In New Orleans, Jeff Duncan writes the move is the "most significant transaction for the school's athletic program since that fateful day in 1966 when the school left the SEC." But whatever "iteration of the Big East survives will be decidedly better than where Tulane was or might have been" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 11/28).

PIRATES' BOUNTY: The Big East yesterday also announced East Carolina Univ. will join the league for football only beginning in '14. ECU AD Terry Holland said, "I don't think there is any doubt that the potential for revenue is an important piece of it. It shouldn't be a driving factor in college athletics, but it's a factor that we all have to be conscious of and make sure that we are stewards of those resources." Holland "stressed the change ... was a football decision." However, he and ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard said that "finding a home for ECU's 18 other sports was a priority" (Greenville DAILY REFLECTOR, 11/28). In Raleigh, Caulton Tudor writes Big East TV money "will be considerably less than the SEC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC but still more than ECU could have made as the primary bread winner in the diluted C-USA." And as much and as often as the Big East has "shunned ECU over the years, the league will benefit more from the Pirates' football presence than any of the other C-USA newcomers" (Raleigh NEWS & OBSERVER, 11/28).

NOT EVERYONE ON BOARD? SPORTING NEWS' Mike DeCourcy reported the Big East's decision to add Tulane "was not unanimous." There was "dissension among the current members discussing the move, and it was vehement." How widespread it might have been "isn't certain, although it is hard to figure how anyone was convinced to vote in favor" (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 11/27). Meanwhile, in Orlando, Matt Murschel writes while the Big Ten's plan to add Maryland and Rutgers "caused major ripples in the college landscape, news of the Big East's moves were met with more of an ... eh." When talking about "pure wow factor, both of these schools miss the mark." While conferences like the Big Ten and SEC are "making calculated moves to secure a brighter future for their leagues, the Big East appears to be making decisions based purely on survival" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 11/28). ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "Tulane? Really? In New Orleans? Come on, the Big East is dissolving. They're desperate" ("PTI," ESPN, 11/27).
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