It's a day of the week and you know what that means: News about conference realignment -- like fish slowly turning into humans in the ocean -- is happening. It had been relatively quiet out there since the Big East's five remaining lacrosse-playing schools -- in concert with the league's other basketball-only members -- told conference commissioner Mike Aresco that they needed to have a talk about their relationship. (I wonder if they broached the subject with a handwritten note as if they were high school freshman? "We just don't talk anymore. Plus, Ricky is really cute and I think I like him more.") Of course, when things are the quietest is when the most important stuff is going down.
As Andy Katz reports today at the four-letter Death Star, the Catholic schools don't intend to stick around until 2015, instead possibly forging their own path as early as July 2014:
The presidents and athletic directors of the seven Catholic Big East schools (Georgetown, Villanova, Seton Hall, St. John's, Providence, Marquette, DePaul) will meet in early January to start extracting the schools, according to a source. The plan for the seven would be to get out for next season, but that's unlikely. A more realistic scenario is to cut out on July 1, 2014, a year before the 27-month exit of July 1, 2015. The lack of a television deal for the 2013-14 men's basketball season is a major concern for the seven. The seven are expected to come together after the holidays to pick a legislative team to orchestrate an exit.
Fun! Where's that big bucket of pills that I marked "Take all of these when conference realignment is just a succession of explosions that will likely lead to lost fingers like in the backyard on the Fourth of July"? (It's a really big bottle; that's why all those words fit on it.)
This may be hunky-dory on the basketball side of things (the driving force for these schools' departure from the league) but there remains a serious concern on the lacrosse side of the "extraction" (as if these schools are being airlifted to safety or something): Everyone is this situation will now have a truncated period of time to: (1) find an associate member -- Johns Hopkins? A school from an already-existing league (like, maybe, Fairfield (which fits the institutional profile of these schools))? -- to try and keep the league's automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament (assuming the league doesn't get whipsawed by the NCAA in terms of the underlying requirements for keeping -- and earning -- an auto-bid); (2) Develop a program internally or offer full membership to a school that already plays as part of the league's full constitution; or (3) find a landing spot for their lacrosse programs should this new league not sponsor (or sponsor to a degree that would earn a free pass to May) men's lacrosse.
There aren't easy resolution items here. Lacrosse is, more likely than not, well down the agenda list for these presidents and athletic directors; the push in this whole thing for these schools is hoops and getting together a television contract that is aligned with those concerns. The future of these schools relative to their men's lacrosse programs will remain unclear until the to-do list gets a bunch of other stuff crossed off first. That's a dangerous proposition, but one that these lacrosse programs need to deal with because everyone, right now, is trying to date the prom queen instead of seeing who else is going to the dance.