John E. Hoover: Move to Big East is TU's logical choice
BY JOHN E. HOOVER World Sports Columnist
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
1/23/13 at 7:54 AM
Go to John E. Hoover's blogOriginal Print Headline: Big East is logical move for Tulsa
University of Tulsa administrators tuned in to their favorite new game show on Tuesday, "The Conference is Right."
Big East Conference, come on down.
Both the Mountain West Conference and Conference USA issued seminal press releases at mid-afternoon Tuesday that could profoundly affect TU athletics and may have been the penultimate nudge that finally sends the Golden Hurricane into the Big East.
The MWC announced plans, starting this fall, to split its 12 schools into two six-school divisions for football and stage a conference championship game.
Meanwhile, C-USA formally welcomed Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic to the fold beginning July 1 and included TU among "current C-USA members that will remain in the league for 2013-14."
It's probably not wise to buy that last part just yet.
C-USA's announcement on the whole was but a fast-track formality. Middle Tennessee and Florida Atlantic are coming and have been since November. Their addition merely was hastened from 2014 to 2013.
But Tulsa president Steadman Upham has expressed disappointment in C-USA's loss of like-minded and regional schools like SMU, Houston, Memphis and Tulane - all to the Big East.
The Mountain West's announcement is concrete evidence that the league will not be expanding beyond 12 any time soon and is a strong indicator that the MWC was just waiting for Boise State and San Diego State to abandon their folly of joining the Big East. SDSU finalized that decision just last week.
The MWC's new football divisions put Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, New Mexico, Utah State and Wyoming in the Mountain Division and Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, San Diego State, San Jose State and UNLV in the West Division.
Each team will play five divisional games and three cross-divisional games, the latter of which will be chosen from computer scheduling models.
And the new-look C-USA configuration (16 schools, 14 for football) includes six newcomers - Charlotte, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Old Dominion and Texas-San Antonio - none of which were playing Division I-A football before 1995, and four of which only launched or rebooted their football program in this century.
So Tuesday's news presents high-definition clarity: The MWC doesn't want Tulsa. And Tulsa doesn't want C-USA.
All of which makes Tulsa to the Big East a logical choice.
Now all Tulsa needs is an invitation from the Big East.
That means adding destinations like Connecticut, Temple, South Florida and Navy to the travelogue.
A fourth-grade geography class could point out all the logistical problems that go along with such a move: From Tulsa, it's 2,600 air miles round trip to Storrs, Conn., 2,300 miles to Philadelphia, 2,340 miles to South Florida and 2,140 miles to Annapolis, Md.
In addition to those, TU still would have trips to C-USA expatriates Central Florida (2,000 miles) and East Carolina (2,060 miles), who take up residence in the Big East in the coming years.
That all makes Cincinnati (1,290), Louisville (1,150), Tulane (1,086), Houston (906) and Memphis (682) seem right next door.
That's a lot of late nights, early mornings and probably missed classes for soccer and tennis and cross country and softball and the like.
Then again, all that mileage doesn't represent a major difference from C-USA trips to West Virginia (Marshall), Miami (Florida International), Boca Raton (Florida Atlantic), North Carolina (Charlotte), Virginia (Old Dominion), Alabama (UAB), Tennessee (Middle Tennessee), Mississippi (Southern Miss), El Paso (UTEP) and Houston (Rice).
A financial tradeoff would make it all the more palatable for TU. Preliminary reports suggest the Big East is seeking a new media rights deal worth between $3 million and $5 million per school. C-USA schools next year are expected to get $1.5 million each from television revenue.
There's also the lure of winning the "Group of Five" - that is, being the highest-ranked champion among the Big East, Mountain West, C-USA, Mid-American and Sun Belt to get a spot in the new college football postseason.
It most likely would not be a spot in the four-team playoff, but rather an entry into one of the "access" bowls outside the national semifinal.
Given Tulsa's recent success, that zenith would be easier to reach by winning a semi-tough Big East than it would be against an undemanding C-USA schedule.
Of course, TV partners may not be so generous to a Big East that just lost seven lucrative basketball-only properties (DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova left to form their own league) and can't seem to retain some of its most attractive football properties (Pittsburgh and Syracuse left for the ACC, Rutgers left for the Big Ten).
The Big East is clearly a mess, constantly shifting and smoldering from within. It's not an ideal solution for Tulsa, stuck in the middle of the country isolated from any appealing television markets.
But it certainly beats what the other contestants in this ever-evolving game show are offering: disinterest from the Mountain West, and declining property values from C-USA.