Memphis' impending move to the Big East may lock down the all important "12th school" the conference was looking to secure it the hopes of strengthening its football brand, but changes little about what remains a fluid process.
Two months ago, when the Big East added five teams to its conference membership, we wrote that the conference realignment picture was still volatile, and that the Big East will remain in a state of flux until potential superconferences (like the Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12) decide they have reached the end of their respective expansions.
We stand by that argument, reiterate it and add a small caveat about two local schools below.
Though the Big East—along with the Big 12—has been the focus of the realignment universe for the past few months, it's been so for all the wrong reasons. The Big East has been in the news not because teams are clambering to join in the hopes of creating a super conference a la the SEC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and ACC, but because its current members are leaving in the hopes of joining one of the preceding powerhouses. Today's announcement (ed. note: adding Memphis on Feb. 7, much like adding five new members on Dec. 6), though a short-term plus for the conference, doesn't do much in the way of assuaging its long-term concerns.
Moving right back to those super-conferences, the ACC has been previously rumored to have an interest in expanding to 16-teams. Syracuse and Pittsburgh are already leaving the Big East for the Atlantic Coast, which, by the way, is what started this chaotic mess in the first place. If the ACC really is looking to expand once more, it's nearly impossible to believe the Connecticut Huskies and Louisville Cardinals aren't on the list of prime candidates. Believe whatever you want about Jim Calhoun not getting along with so and so and the claims of school presidents about being loyal to their conferences; just don't be caught off guard when the ACC comes calling down the line.
As for Temple and 'Nova—this is supposed to be about them, after all—the conference landscape is far from settled and its not unreasonable to believe the Big East has further losses to contend with on the horizon. Is there any lock-solid evidence that says "these" schools are leaving and that "these" schools would step in to fill the gaps? No, not at all.
The point is that when something—anything—changes down the road, we could all be right back to square one. And, suddenly, Temple University and Villanova football are put back on the drawing board along with every other school who may be able to fill a need.
The only difference between then and now is that -- because the Big East is momentarily "full" -- you're going to start hearing and reading more rumors about Temple's place in the radically altered Conference-USA. Should Temple not head to "greener pastures" before the Big East has another opening, both the football and basketball programs will be in line as candidates for expansion. Villanova football will be similarly reevaluated on an "as needed" basis.
And, hey, even if Temple were to head somewhere else in the meantime, what does that really change anyway?
It isn't just UCONN and Louisville that are concerns for the Big East moving forward. What if Boise and/or San Diego were suddenly offered a more geographically convenient spot in the PAC? Teams, just like coaches, can opt for the bigger, better deal at any time -- right, TCU?
In the mess that has become college athletics (particularly football), believe what you may, apply skepticism to all and know that everything is subject to change.