SEC-Big East Challenge ends
by Dan Wolken, USA TODAY Sports
The SEC-Big East Challenge – perhaps the most ill-conceived of all the made-for-TV basketball gimmicks — won’t continue in the future, Big East commissioner Mike Aresco said Monday morning during a chamber of commerce speech in Connecticut, according to reporters in attendance.
In other words, no more gems like Rutgers-LSU, Seton Hall-Auburn, Cincinnati-Georgia and DePaul-Ole Miss.
We kid, we kid. But truthfully, the SEC and Big East were never really much of a match. Rather, they were nothing more than two leagues with ESPN contracts that didn’t already have non-conference dance partners – copying a trend that started in 1999 when ESPN put together the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. (Fox spearheaded the Big 12/Pac-12 Hardwood Series between 2007-10, and the Mountain West and Missouri Valley have been playing a challenge series since 2009.)
Though the Big East and SEC have both been good basketball leagues, their series felt artificial – especially when it expanded in 2011 to include every SEC team. Even from 2007-2010, when the format was just a pair of doubleheaders played at semi-neutral sites, the matchups weren’t particularly compelling. The best year was 2009 when Kentucky and UConn played in Madison Square Garden and Florida played Syracuse in Tampa, but the undercards for those games were Georgia-St. John’s and Mississippi State-DePaul. Blech.
The six-year ESPN contract for the series expired after this past year, and as Aresco said publicly on Monday, it won’t be renewed. As the Big East changes membership significantly in the years ahead, that’s probably best for everyone involved.
The Big East is expected to separate from the seven non-football, Catholic schools following the 2013-14 season. After that, it will be a league headlined in basketball by UConn, Cincinnati, Memphis and Temple with some hit-and-miss programs like South Florida, Central Florida and Houston underneath them and programs like SMU, Tulane and East Carolina at the bottom that don’t really register at all on the national level.
Simply put, it would be hard to get more than few good matchups out of that group, especially for television purposes. It’s much more likely the Big East will have some sort … [For more on SEC-Big East Challenge ends, commissioner says, click here.]