It was truly a sad weekend for the Big East. First, Dave Gavitt, the founder and first commissioner of the conference, died of congestive heart failure at age 73. Before starting the Big East, Gavitt was the basketball coach at Providence College. He led the PC team of Ernie DiGregorio and Marvin Barnes to the Final Four in 1973, when I was a senior in high school and the Friars were the toast of Rhode Island. People in the state have never forgotten that magical team, or Gavitt.
Then, on Sunday morning, the news came that Syracuse and Pittsburgh were leaving the Big East for the ACC. That seems like a mortal blow to Big East basketball. To me, Syracuse WAS the Big East. It was the iconic member of the league when college hoops took off as a national TV vehicle on ESPN. I'll never forget the night when Pearl Washington sank a halfcourt shot to beat Boston College. Now both SU and BC are gone to the ACC. Funny, but Onondaga Lake never struck me as the Atlantic Coast.
Big-time college sports has become a morass of greed and corruption. My disdain for it grows by the day. There's a very good story in this week's Atlantic on the subject, by noted author and civil rights historian Taylor Branch. Traditional conferences are being torn apart in the name of greed. The Big 12, which was the Big 8 when I attended Missouri, is in danger of unraveling.
It's hard to say what will happen to the Big East now. Maybe some lesser, ambitious schools (UB?) will try to get in. But it'll never be the same. It will never be the way it was when I would head over to the Blarney Rock in Manhattan to hang out with basketball fans from all over the Northeast during Big East week in the 1980s. Those days are gone. Traditions expire quickly these days. It's hard for an old Big East fan to take. More and more, I think about becoming a fan of high school sports.