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Big East football should vote no

This complaint is likely all for naught - if Tom Luicci is reporting that the Big East plans to double its football exit fee and invite six new members, then that certainly is what going to happen barring any last-minute setbacks. However, that does not mean that the six remaining Big East football programs are making the right call. Even if the most likely scenario is a split and divorce from the non-football programs, any pain would be worth it if only to have a league that puts football first, and in proportional perspective to its relative financial importance. That would be true stability. Forcing two sides that hate each other to remain collegiate is most assuredly not, with every remaining party's loyalty in question, and ready to bolt at a moment's notice. Thirty years of unfair, self-serving decisions, and now "loyalty" suddenly matters to the powers that be in Providence.

It's not that committing to Big East football is necessarily a problem - that is a disappointment no doubt, but it's one we can live with for the time being. No, the troublesome aspect of the deal is that the remaining Big East football programs are still forcibly linked to eight athletic departments that do not play Big East football. Those eight athletic departments threatened throughout all of the past week to split off into their own conference, and yet  will not have to pay one penny more in increased exit fees. That is understandable in the sense that they have limited options, but is not exactly the smartest plan with Notre Dame wary about being stuck in a "Catholic League" with seven other athletic departments falling behind in the athletics arms race due to not having access to football television revenue. Especially considering the persistent rumors that eventually the super conferences will secede from the NCAA.

The six remaining schools would surely benefit from a split. All bring considerable value to the conference, which cannot be said for all of the basketball programs, who continue to interfere in Big East football's ability to thrive. Like it or not, college football obliterates college basketball when it comes to the television revenue calculus. That is why, as paradoxical as it may sound, the Big East football programs may be better off in with their presumed new lineup than with the old one - it's debatable, but not completely implausible. Basketball, on the other hand, is going to take a gigantic hit from not having Syracuse and Pittsburgh on board. This is why it remains as imperative as ever for the Big East to not jump at the first deal ESPN floats over the next few months, and wait for the contract to expire so Versus can jump into the bidding. That is the scenario Providence and its ilk fear the most (more than getting the heave-ho), as the conference's stark revenue disparity will grow even more pronounced.

If they disagree, there's the door. Despite all the empty threats in the world, they will not leave - they know that being second-class revenue citizens is still a better deal than in being a glorified version of the Atlantic 10. That is precisely why they Villanova is so desperate to switch to the football side if you believe their months of protest. Therein lies the upside for Rutgers, beyond the initial benefit of a split or divorce. Stability is not a goal, it is an obstacle. Rutgers remains on the outside in the current era of 14-team conferences, their ambitions checked for two years in a row by the Pac-16 expansion scenario failing to come to fruition. Rutgers will land on its feet though if the era of the super conference ever comes to pass, and the best way to make that happen is to keep the conference carousel spinning in complete disarray. That means, of course, spooking Notre Dame. In other words, can the apocalypse please come already? It is in the interests of most of the remaining six BE programs to provoke the end game here.

Most Big Ten expansion scenarios from 2010 involved the idea of the Big Ten raiding multiple teams from the Big East with the intention of forcing Notre Dame's hand. They ultimately punted, but will Notre Dame really want to stick around in an all-Catholic conference, even if it expands by adding the likes of Xavier? The idea is then that their hand will be forced by losing their loose bowl tie-ins and a voice on NCAA legislation granted by their current partial conference membership confers. This, of course, is not likely to be supported by Big East football members without realistic landing spots. However, Rutgers remains an attractive candidate, because talented underachievers always have and always will get an extra benefit of the doubt. The problem is that the stronger conferences remain extremely conservative (the Big Ten went for surefire revenue with no growth potential in Nebraska, and the ACC opted for better basketball), and do not want to be seen as destroying a conference.

For all of the acrimony and resentment floating around, Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti is a businessman, and any yes vote will be strictly a business decision. As untenable as staying may be, withdrawing absent a voting majority would cost the Big East football programs an extra five million, and endanger their automatic BCS bid. In a vacuum, the six survivors are better off on their own, but such infighting would be an awful risk. From an expected value perspective, it is a risk worth taking - but this option is also dangerous. Essentially, a yes vote is opting to punt on 4th and 1 from the opponent's 40-yard line. The numbers say go for it, but because there is a non-zero possibility of complete disaster, Pernetti is being excessively risk averse. If Rutgers athletics had a thousand dice rolls, the decision would be easy. They do not, and thereby a yes vote signifies being unwilling to gamble with the future of the athletic department even with odds that are in their favor.