Could Big East football return to Massachusetts?
Lots of questions and moving pieces on the conference realignment front. ESPN's Andy Katz attempts to answer many of those questions here. One interesting note halfway through the article involves the ACC's next move and a possible move by Boston College's newest in-state FBS neighbor.
If the Big East is looking to add one more team for all sports it makes sense to pick up UMass out of the A-10 since the Minutemen have upgraded football and would fit in the footprint. UConn and Cincinnati haven't hid their desire to go to the ACC but the ACC won't add, according to sources, unless there is another major move by the Big Ten or SEC that could include poaching ACC members.
Katz is a Newton, Mass. native and is generally plugged in when it comes to Northeast college sports. But Katz' floating the Minutemen as a potential Big East all-sports add comes at an odd time when the University administration is evaluating the school's move to Division I-A. What makes the suggestion even more strange is that there's a very real possibility that the Big East loses UMass' closest geographic rival in UConn. Will be interesting to see how this plays out and whether the "Big East" returns to Massachusetts.
As for UConn and Cincinnati, Katz suggests that unless the ACC gets poached by the Big Ten, SEC or Big 12, both schools won't be getting ACC invites. Though since the Big East Catholic school divorce is going to be dragged out over a number of years, UConn and Cincinnati have some time to figure things out. If both schools don't decide to stick it out in an all-sports Big East Conference, another option is to join the Catholic 7 in the new all-sports conference and find a separate conference home for football, according to a report in The Star-Ledger.
According to City of Basketball Love's Josh Verlin, both Xavier and Butler will be joining the Catholic 7 in the new league. If the new league is going to add Xavier, I doubt the Catholics would find room for a second program from Cincinnati.
I also don't think it's a given that UConn and Cincinnati would be automatically invited to the ACC should the league lose, say, two current members. That's because of the new college football playoff payout structure. There are still a lot of things left to be worked out, but if the details that are emerging are true, the ACC wouldn't have much incentive to add two more members with a fixed playoff + Orange Bowl payout of $79.25M a year if those adds didn't increase the conference's TV revenue. The payout structure could always be altered given changes in conference membership, but having two less members with a fixed playoff + Orange Bowl payout could mean as much as $1M more a year for the remaining programs.
And what about USF? Poor, poor USF.