Football had dictated every single move in this ongoing saga - until last week. Finally, a group of schools who don't play football and had grown tired of having their athletic futures decided by what was best for other school's football programs, decided to stand up for hoops.
Because DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's and Villanova carve out much of their athletic identity from their basketball programs, the recent football-fueled expansion moves by their conference, the Big East, left them feeling left out. As a result, a conference that was originally formed to be a basketball power and grew into the best hoops conference in the country - which had over the course of the last couple of years over-extended itself in order to try to keep up with the madness created by football - appears to be mortally wounded. At the very least, the Big East Conference has completely lost its identity, if not much much more.
Considering how popular NCAA basketball and "March Madness" have become, it's always been puzzling why what was best for basketball programs has never really been considered during all the crazy conference shuffling. It's not like the basketball programs are irrelevant and won't be affected, right? There are numerous schools that have changed or will be changing conferences whose basketball teams are better than their football teams. Often times, those powerful basketball teams aren't getting to take a step up in conference, but a good-sized step back. How does this make any sense?
It was their unhappiness with having their conference watered down in hoops that led those seven prominent Big East schools to announce they were breaking away. Who knows if they will be the last to do so.
Meanwhile, the Mountain West is one of those handful of conferences that has had great balance between football and basketball. Over the past eight seasons, MW football teams have posted the best win percentage in bowl games of any conference - better than the Almighty SEC. Yet collectively, hoops might be even better, with the MW's conference RPI ranking in the top five each of the last three seasons. Boise State, Fresno State, and Nevada - the schools that have joined the MW in the past three years (with the exception of Hawaii, a football-only member) have all enjoyed a step up in conference affiliation in ALL their sports, not just football. The same will be true for San Jose State and Utah State starting next season.
Realignment isn't finished - not by a long shot. But you have to wonder, now that the soon-to-be former Big East members have seemingly struck the first blow for what's best for basketball, how many other schools might be thinking and rethinking decisions that have been made, to this point, without much thought about the well being of their other sports programs.