The big news this week in the incredibly overblown story of Big East expansion is Memphis hiring former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese. Yes, this is huge news. It means that the Tigers now have a pretty easy way into the Big East - or at least that's what everybody seems to think. It was just hours after Tranghese was officially hired that people began speculating about how Memphis would fit into the 16-team basketball and 8-team football conference.
The easy answer - they can't. But that doesn't stop people from trying, and it seems like DePaul is getting a lot of the backlash. (This message board from the Charleston Daily Mail story is just one example.)
Yes, an 0-18 bulls-eye has been placed squarely on the back of the Blue Demons, but is kicking DePaul out of the Big East really the answer? Would it be good for the Blue Demons?
DePaul's place in the Big East comes down to a number of things, but here are some important points to consider before automatically assuming the Blue Demons have to go.
Recruiting - DePaul doesn't seem to be helping the Big East get any more Chicago-area recruits. They all want to go to the University of Illinois still. Players like Jereme Richmond and Meyers Leonard aren't going to Notre Dame or Marquette because of the added opportunity to play in Chicago. In fact, 2010 recruit Crandall Head chose the Illini over both the Golden Eagles and the Fighting Irish. It's worth noting here that Tennessee isn't exactly a hotbed of basketball talent anyways. The ESPNU Top 100 recruits from Tennessee in 2009 are attending... North Carolina and Vanderbilt.
Television Exposure - The Chicago, IL designated market area is the third biggest in the country. Of course, the Big East already controls two of the Top 5 in New York, NY and Philadelphia, PA. It could be argued that with the presence Notre Dame has in the Windy City that, even without DePaul, the league would have a strong impact on the city. I feel like this might be an even bigger deal if the Blue Demons played their home games in Lincoln Park instead of at Allstate Arena in Rosemont.
Football - The Blue Demons don't play football. This is obviously the big sticking point in this whole debate. The Blue Demons haven't had a football team since 1939 and now certainly doesn't seem like the time to start one. But then again, is Memphis really that big of a get in terms of pigskin power? The Tigers are a rousing 4-3 all-time in bowl games and last season lost 41-14 to South Florida in the MagicJack St. Petersburg Bowl. This isn't exactly a football powerhouse. Also, since Memphis lost to Ole Miss, Louisville and USF last season (the only three BCS conference opponents on their schedule) is there really any guarantee that they'd be an upper echelon team in the Big East. No, there really isn't.
Basketball - DePaul has a very strong basketball history, but has struggled recently and college athletics truly are a "What have you done for me lately?", world. Still, Memphis has made a living by beating up on Conference USA opponents, sure the Tigers made the Final Four with Chicagoan Derrick Rose, but that appearance has now been vacated by the NCAA. In fact, Memphis' last two NCAA Tournament Final Four squads - 1985 and 2008 - were eventually vacated by the NCAA. There's a history of mavericks at Memphis. Is that the type of program the Big East wants to encourage?
Rivalry - DePaul has a natural rival in Marquette from their days in Conference USA and their close proximity. DePaul and Notre Dame - given the opportunity - should blossom into an excellent rivalry once the teams stand on equal footing. Two private Catholic schools with two very identities serve for a great foil. Which team is Memphis' natural rival? Louisville? Cardinals fans will always care more about the Kentucky game than any Big East opponent.
Sure, there are reasons why DePaul doesn't seem like a great fit for the Big East right now - a big one seems to be the 0-18 gorilla in the room - but the Blue Demons are a better for the conference right now. Their market, basketball history and rivalries outweigh the small gains Memphis would add in football. Also, while the men's basketball team might not be doing well, the women's basketball team has become a contender in conference and other - non-revenue - sports are thriving.
As @kgallagher so wisely put it when I posed this question on Twitter... "Men's basketball struggling, but all 14 other sports are doing quite well in the BIG EAST. Fix what's broke, don't downgrade."
The Big East should be thinking the same thing.