All the talk on campus lately has been about football and basketball. From my Sociology of Sports class to Twitter to the dining halls to work, everyone has an opinion. Should we flip conferences or should we stay?
We’ve got 24 Division I sports teams here at Temple. Right now, we sit in the Mid-Atlantic Conference for football and the Atlantic 10 for basketball. We’re always right in the thick of MAC competition, and we always sit atop the A-10. But the Big East has been beckoning. After years of snubbing us, shutting us out, they want us in. Everyone’s got an opinion, and I might take some heat for mine.
I grew up with Big East basketball. The Villanovas, the Syracuses, the Georgetowns, the West Virginias, and the Marquettes made the annual conference tournament at Madison Square Garden almost as good as the tourney itself. Big East basketball was a religion. And no matter what team you supported, the conference was so tight each year, that you watched every other conference game, because they’d all eventually have an impact on you. When the Big East started fracturing earlier this year, I was devastated. Football was the weak link, but basketball would pay the price. The Big East would never again be synonymous with the best basketball conference in the country.
So now the Big East wants us. Now, in their moment of need, they start courting the Owls. When the news broke, I didn’t know what to think. I couldn’t weigh the benefits. But now, I say forget it.
Moving to the Big East would be a slight step up from the MAC. We’d get marginally better recruits, but the national spotlight wouldn’t really brighten all that much more. For basketball, the Big East isn’t what it once was. If the original Big East was still intact, I’d be the first person jumping ship. But it’s not. And in a few years, the name will no longer be synonymous with top-caliber basketball. We might be the team to save the Big East, to keep their schedules afloat, to keep the league decent. But if we’re winning in the A-10, solid in the A-10, why leave?
It’s all about revenue, exposure, and recruits. I get that. But do the benefits outweigh the costs? I think we’re quite happy right where we are. So why not snub the Big East right back? We’re still a top-25 basketball program without them. We still pack the house without them. We still get great recruits without them. The revenue, exposure, and recruits are all there for us in basketball. And if it’s any indication of how slippery the Big East’s slope is, we, an A-10 school, have lured recruits away from Big East powerhouses West Virginia and Villanova. Since I’ve been a student here, we’ve beaten #3-ranked Nova, and #10-ranked Georgetown. I have no doubt we could hold our own in Big East basketball, but I don’t think we need the Big East. Not the Big East we see today.
Maybe the solution is conditional: join for football and not for basketball. But I don’t decide these things, the Board of Trustees does. What I’ve come to realize is that regardless of the decision that they come to, I’m still an Owl. I didn’t pick Temple because of the conference we played in. I picked Temple because I wanted to be an Owl. No matter what conference we join, I’ll still go to football games at the Linc, I’ll still go to every basketball game, I’ll still scream “I Believe” at the top of my lungs, and I’ll still be an Owl.