UB's next 'Big' move?

Why a move to the Big East wouldn’t be so terrible

On September 13, 2012

I'll just cut to the chase - Buffalo should get a chance to join the Big East.

Sounds crazy, right?

I thought so, too, at first. But then a UB alum and sports fanatic innocently mentioned this idea to get a rise out of me.

It turns out it's a damn good idea for both Buffalo and the much-maligned Big East. In past years, most recently in 2008, there was minimal talk amongst fans about Buffalo moving to the Big East. It seemed ludicrous at the time.

Now that same argument holds a smidgeon of merit.

Consider this: In a few years, this once-powerful conference will have lost Notre Dame in all sports except football, where it will stay independent; Pittsburgh, a power in basketball; and Syracuse, another basketball powerhouse. The loss of the Orange leaves this conference missing a presence in upstate and Western New York.

Enter the Bulls. First, UB is a top school academically as an AAU member (it would be the only one besides Rutgers in the new Big East). That would instantly bring some academic credibility to a conference somewhat lacking it.

Secondly, even though the headquarters are in Providence, R.I. the Big East has always been New York-centric, especially in basketball. With its championship tournament in legendary Madison Square Garden, it would be a shame if there were no New York teams for Big East fans in the non-New York City regions of the Empire State to root for. The Bulls can take that spot.

Recruiting in the Big East would improve an already growing men's basketball program and help build the women's program. Recruiting NYC and the surrounding areas would be easier for men's head coach Reggie Witherspoon and women's head coach Felisha Legette-Jack. It would also further connect the school with a city that constantly sends students up to Buffalo for educational purposes. It will help boost the program, something the new athletic staff has been feverishly trying to do.

Also, recruiting could be more national-based, as kids in Florida, Texas and even California would know if they played at UB they would get a chance to play in front of their friends and family once a year. The flexibility would help the Bulls, who are now confined to recruiting Western New York and the Midwest.

For the Big East, getting Buffalo can help grab the Toronto and Western New York markets, which would be helpful in basketball and football. The money received in a TV deal could help Buffalo build facilities that will help boost recruiting.

Getting an at-times-admittedly-apathetic fan base to support UB could be tough, especially if the teams don't win early, but it should eventually be no big deal. A move like this would help boost the school's profile, thereby increasing alumni donors and getting kids more excited about watching sports on a bigger, more national stage.

I have no general issues with the Mid-American Conference. It is a growing, competitive conference with teams that are starting to make serious noise on a national level, like Ohio, Akron and Toledo. But oftentimes Buffalo is viewed as an outsider in a conference that is Ohio-based. The Big East could be a fresh start for the Bulls.

Travel, as always, would be a big concern, especially in the new Big East. The Bulls' sports teams would have to travel to faraway lands such as Dallas, Texas, San Diego, California and Idaho. But despite the cost, it is another great opportunity for the Bulls to stretch their presence nationally.

The opportunities are endless in a new, more nationally based conference.

Picture students traveling the 6-8 hours to go to the Big East Tournament - whether it's in Madison Square Garden or the new, sleek Barclays Center in Brooklyn - and giving the Big Apple a sexy shade of blue.

Imagine a potential conference championship game in football in a big-time venue like MetLife Stadium in New Brunswick, N.J. Who wouldn't be jacked up for that?

Visualize hosting teams like St. Johns, Villanova, South Florida, SMU, Boise State, Central Florida and many others, and creating new rivalries. An opportunity to create a new winning identity in a new conference.

It doesn't seem so crazy now, does it?


Email: nathaniel.smith@ubspectrum.com

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