The push-and-pull power struggle that has gripped the Big East is no more.
You are now looking at a football league, for better or worse.
As much as the Big East tried to forge its football identity, it never quite could given the dichotomy unique to this league, the only one among the major conferences that had to serve split interests. Now, it must find one and fast to keep is disjointed members united and committed for more than just a handful of months.
The big question, of course, remains: Is that even possible?
Because the same dark cloud hangs over what is left of this league the way it did when Pitt and Syracuse left. When TCU and West Virginia left. When Rutgers and Louisville left. Seven departing basketball schools do not change what will continue to vex Mike Aresco and the rest of its members.
No matter who is left, or what television deal is reached, or who else is invited in, the Big East cannot do a thing to keep a school from leaving for a better conference. Note the statement from Cincinnati athletic director Whit Babcock, whose school desperately tried to get into the ACC last month -- even asking Ohio State coach Urban Meyer to try and put in a good word.
Babcock never once mentioned the Big East. Do you know what UC is committed to? "Competing at the highest level," the statement says. Cincinnati is not the only remaining school that has a wayward eye, either. UConn made overtures to the ACC both last year and this year, believing it was the next school in once Maryland left for the Big Ten. Instead, Louisville got the life raft out.
At this point, each remaining school has to make itself look attractive enough for somebody else. The Big East already has lost its seat at the equality table in the future playoff system. It is set to lose millions upon millions in revenue. Its biggest national football brand -- Boise State -- has not even played a down in the league, and yet, is perhaps the most valuable piece that cannot be lost in the next several months.
The Big East has, unfortunately, become a minor-league farm system for coaches and programs. Prove yourself in the Big East, and you get called up. While there are some who remain hopeful, this league will not rebuild itself the way it did after Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College left.
Not when realignment is still ongoing; not when teams are looking for a way out; not when we have no true idea who will even be playing football under this umbrella in five years, let alone next September. Every question about what happens to Team X and Team Y will remain a mystery for some time to come.
The bottom line is this collection of schools needs each other right now, so they have no choice but to work together and find some common ground. But just how long that remains the case is a question that will remain from here on out.