Despite more schools announcing their intention to depart the Big East Conference in football and basketball, Temple’s athletic department remains in a much better position than it has been in the past, Athletic Director Bill Bradshaw said in an interview on Jan. 19.
“There’s no question that where we were, in terms of having sports in two different conferences, and where we are now is a much better place in every respect,” Bradshaw said. “The level of competition that we’re playing in a league with like institutions, with similar enrollments and commitment to athletics, missions of the university, all of those things in the league we’re in now are similar. It’s definitely a step up in revenue from where we’ve been, in competition, in access to bowls, all in an upward way.”
San Diego State, which was scheduled to join the Big East for football in the 2013 season, announced on Jan. 16 that the Aztecs would be remaining in the Mountain West Conference for all sports. The move was instigated by the late December announcement of Boise State’s intention to back out of its 2013 Big East football agreement and remain in the MWC.
In basketball, the so-called “Catholic 7” schools: St. John’s, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Seton Hall, Providence and Villanova, decided to break away from the Big East in mid-December, and form their own basketball conference, effective sometime in the next 27 months.
Bradshaw called the Catholic 7 “not a significant loss for us,” adding that Temple will only miss playing Georgetown out of the bunch.
“They should’ve left. They should have probably left a while ago,” Bradshaw said. “I always thought the Big East was built on a fault, a fault that was going to have an earthquake sometime. Those schools should’ve gotten out much sooner.”
Athletic directors and presidents of Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, East Carolina, Houston, Memphis, Navy, San Diego State, South Florida, Southern Methodist, Tulane and Temple met in Dallas on Jan. 11 to discuss these issues.
Bradshaw said the meeting was “very encouraging” and included discussions about the issues of schools leaving, future expansion plans and the Big East’s ongoing media rights negotiations.
The media rights deal will be a hybrid combining football and basketball rights, and is expected to be announced sometime within the next month, Bradshaw said.
With reports that the Catholic 7 is pursuing its own media rights deal for basketball, Bradshaw said the deal won’t interfere with the Big East negotiations because the Catholic 7 doesn’t have football as a bargaining chip.
“The nature of money is in football,” Bradshaw said. “In most leagues, 70 percent of media rights go to football and 30 percent goes to basketball, and those are leagues that have very good basketball.”
The recent football exits and the splintering of Big East basketball are just the most recent spikes in what has been an ongoing deterioration of the Big East since West Virginia, Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced their all-sports exits in July 2011.
Louisville, the school with the largest athletic revenue among all-sports Big East schools, and Rutgers announced in November 2012 that they’d be leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big Ten Conference, respectively, effective 2014.
With 12 football schools, the Big East intended to break up the conference into East and West divisions for the 2013 season, where the winners of each division would play in the new Big East Championship game. Those plans have changed with the departures of Louisville, Rutgers, Boise State and San Diego State.
Temple announced its revised 2013 football schedule on Jan. 18. The Owls were scheduled to host Boise State and travel to San Diego State, but will instead host Louisville and play at Cincinnati.
Bradshaw said more fans will be in attendance for the Louisville game than would have been there for the Boise State game, while stressing that the football schedule has improved from when Temple competed in the Mid-American Conference.
“Clearly in football, the schedule that we have is a much better one,” Bradshaw said. “The access to bowls is clearly a more favorable postseason. And our access in the BCS has improved dramatically. Before Louisville and Rutgers left, the league was the sixth best Division I conference, and it still is sixth, even with Boise out and San Diego State out.”
Despite a year’s worth of realignment and outrage from fans who are disappointed in the withering of the Big East, Bradshaw remains firm on his stance that Temple is in a good place.
“We’ve been resilient. You have to look at it objectively, not emotionally or subjectively,” Bradshaw said. “You can take opinion and line it up against the facts. The facts say that where we are in football and basketball is a very good place, better than we’ve been. Do you know anybody who would disagree with that?”
Joey Cranney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joey_cranney.