For the past decade expansion has centered around football interest. That led to a sort of common knowledge that basketball, while profitable, only got to play the role of backseat driver. Without a solid method to test this that assumption held up, until now.
T-Shirt fans had labored under the assumption that the C7 schools needed football to be big time, and for some conferences that might be true. After all you hardly see the A-10 swinging giant TV deals despite the fact they are a very good hoops conference.
So when the ACC got it in their head to "Expansionate" (Assassinate via expansion) the Big East back in 2004 the response from the conference was to keep adding football power. The only problem is that there is not all that much football power to go around.
Fast forward seven or eight years and we see teams like Tulane being added. That was rock bottom, and that is when college sports fans got to see an honest to goodness test of the hypothesis that "football drives the bus"
The Catholic seven decided to take off like Steve Marin in "the Jerk". Walking through the Big East McMansion picking up random remotes, lamps, and tables.
Many thought that they might end up drunk in an alley lamenting the decision not to add Penn State back in the day. But then a funny thing happened.
They snagged a large TV contract within weeks, something the conference as a whole had not manged to do over the months preceding the schism.
Three to four million dollars a school. That was a game changing number when is was offered to programs that don't have football. That much money without the expenses brought by football is just a phenomenal amount of cash. Their contract exceeds the deal had by every non-aq football conference (MAC, SunBelt, CUSA, and the Mountain West)
This left the Big East schools, who still had no contract, with something to measure themselves against. NBC swooped in and offered the football schools about two million dollars each. ESPN, who had the right to match any offer, took that deal in a new york minute.
What astounding is that among the football Schools are UConn, Temple, Memphis, and Cincinnati. All are great basketball programs. But the depth in hoops drops off quickly after that on the contract demonstrates that a conference hoops prestige can weigh more into their value than football does.
If that did not show you who was driving the Bus in the Big East how about this.... When the C7 Schools were tripping through the house picking up random things they grabbed the name "Big East".
Catholic 7 schools to keep 'Big East' name for new league next season, according to sources - ESPN
The Big East's seven departing Catholic schools are expected to start their own league next season and will keep the Big East Conference name, sources told ESPN's Brett McMurphy, Andy Katz and Dana O'Neil.
Joining the Catholic 7 schools -- DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, and Villanova -- in the new "Big East" this fall will be Xavier and Butler, sources said.
Bringing this back around to Buffalo.
UB Athletic Director Danny White has said one reason not to bring UB Hockey is because you can't build a national brand with it. He is right about Hockey but I have to wonder if we need football to build that brand or can we do it with hoops?
Buffalo has NHL Hockey, NFL football, and beloved AAA baseball team. The vacuum is basketball. You have Canisius, Niagara, and Buffalo. For a decade UB has clearly been the best program of the three but they have not been good enough to capture the city.
If UB can start to win the MAC, beat big name teams, and become a basketball power they could easily become a common name in the Buffalo Niagara region.
That's not to say football is not important, especially with the slight chance the Bills may some day leave. Football has a higher ceiling for income and recognition but the added expenses and saturation of the NFL make finding a path to those revenues far more difficult.