The meeting in Washington over the weekend allowed university presidents to discuss the state of the Big East as a conference and what they needed to do to proactively preserve the conference in the wake of Syracuse and Pitt leaving. Thankfully the president's seem to understand they are on the brink of being lost in the tide of conference realignment and have agreed to give the commissioner the go ahead to "aggressively" pursue new members. TCU staying is the most immediate and pressing concern considering the void in the Big 12 left by Texas A&M's departure to the SEC (you're not alone if this all makes your head spin by the way, seriously to have to mention three conferences in a sentence to simplify things and having it be normal now is absurd). This is true because although UConn would prefer to be in the ACC as of now, there is little indication that they want to consider expanding for now and depending on how well the Big East does in expanding the Huskies stance could change before the ACC decides to come knocking. By discussing teams like Army and Navy, the Big East has the potential to add teams as football only members which is their ideal. The best addition to their list of expansion favorites is the Southern Methodist Mustangs, because of their geographical proximity and established rivalry with TCU this school would provide a reassurance to the Horned Frogs that the conference is working to ensure they are as attractive as they were before the recent departures. Seeing the Big East working proactively to ensure its survival is likely going to be enough to convince TCU to stay, considering the continued drama that is the Big 12 situation without profit sharing and Texas on its own little island.
What we're seeing from the Big East is very reminiscent of the last time the ACC poached teams, except that in this expansion the conference may actually improve competitively in football. While the impact to the basketball aspect of the conference remains unseen because at this juncture there is no real indication which schools will receive invitations and which are just being mentioned because they are of interest, there are enough quality programs and competition is so stiff that no matter who else joins and what division system is established to handle the large number of teams it will undoubtedly be one of the best in the nation. Though fundamentally having a conference with twenty members seems like a bad idea, like every columnist in the world has mentioned in the wake of these shifts this is about football and the money it offers. The added teams will improve in basketball as they gain better recruits who are interested in playing against competition like Georgetown and UConn, but without a moneymaking football conference teams like UConn will bolt for greener (see what I did there) pastures.
Unfortunately for people who root for the Huskies it has become a fight even within the fan base about whether it would be better to abandon the conference that gave us a shot from the beginning and the one in which the men's and women's basketball teams have grown into national powers or to stay. While games which pit UConn against the likes of North Carolina and Duke would indeed be amazing, I'm a firm believer in the tradition of college football and have been offended by the disregard some of these programs have shown in their money grabbing (looking at you Syracuse). As a founding member of the Big East and as a team that has never risen to the top of what can only be described as a mediocre football conference, keep in mind this isn't a criticism UConn went 8-5 and made the BCS in an amazing fight to be the conference champ in a dramatic end of season victory that really was second only to Alabama-Auburn, what justification is there in moving besides money. Fans now have the opportunity to watch a team that will undoubtedly not have a winning record in the foreseeable future, so the TV money is now even more important than getting fans in the seats. One could make the argument that moving to the ACC opens recruiting to a wider and more talented base, while that makes sense in theory it also means you're competing with the likes of Virginia Tech and Florida State for the same recruits. It seems to me that the people truly being ignored in all of this are in fact the fans, imagine being a Texas A&M fan who had the opportunity to easily attend away games against Texas, Baylor, and any other nearby Texas teams not in their conference it just seems the TV money offered distracted the school from the people who had always been supporters.
As a fan of the Big East I hope that the conference does what it needs to do in the short term by aggressively seeking members who can contribute immediately in football and don't dilute the basketball too much as well as rectifying the situation with a Big East TV contract for football by lessening the say of the basketball only members to keep offers from other conferences from pulling more of the founding members away. While I hope UConn does the right thing and stays with the Big East, unless something dramatically changes the outlook of the conference as soon as the ACC decides to expand again the Huskies will be the first in line to join.