Penn State's Move to Big Ten Could Trigger Big East Exodus


The rumblings about Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Boston College possibly pulling out of the Big East to form a conference with other football powers grow louder and louder now that Penn State has been admitted to the Big Ten.

Penn State's departure devastates the prestige of the few big-time football programs left in the East. Rutgers, West Virginia, Temple and the three Big East schools with major football programs are looking for an answer to this troubling predicament.

"We've wanted a football conference for 30 years," said Jake Crouthamel, Syracuse athletic director. "Everyone who has considered a conference in all sports or football is talking right now. The lid seems to have been lifted because of Penn State."

Add Miami, South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Florida State to the above-named six and you have a very interesting league in both football and basketball. Imagine Big East basketball without Syracuse or Pitt. And what would you call the Atlantic 10, the Atlantic 7?

"We've been meeting twice a year for the last four years about this," Boston College Athletic Director Bill Flynn said. "For the three of us (Boston, Pitt and Syracuse), we want a football-only conference. That's still a stumbling block for others. We're happy with the Big East right now and we want to stay there."

Big East Commissioner Dave Gavitt sounds confident that no school will abandon the lucrative, 11-year-old alignment, but added, "There are procedures in place that permit that to be done in an orderly fashion. At the present time, there is no indication that our membership will change in any way in the near future."

That was not the sentiment expressed by Crouthamel. "Syracuse has options to consider," he said. "It will take the right mixtures of schools and the right impetus for this thing to work. It may be that now is the right time to find that right mixture of schools."

With Syracuse reportedly pulling in $330,000 for each home basketball game at the Carrier Dome, that sounds like an empty threat.

Just when you thought the league was going to have some semblance of order, some class structure from one through nine, the usual thing happens. All hell breaks loose.

Syracuse shows big-league vulnerability in losing its No. 1 ranking to the green guys of Villanova by 19 points at the Dome. "This probably ranks as the best win we've ever had," said Rollie Massimino, "including the Georgetown (NCAA title) win in 1985."

It was the first time since 1982 that the Wildcats had won at the Dome. Both sides made 23 field goals, but Syracuse needed 40 more attempts in shooting 28 percent. Villanova made 43 of 49 foul shots, a league record for free throws made. And sophomore Greg Woodard hit 16 of 17 from the line to finish with a career-high 27 points.

Georgetown nearly fell to Providence, but hung on, 93-91, because the Friars missed the front ends of four one-and-ones in the final 5 1/2 minutes and shot only 55 percent from the line.

Connecticut, after losing to St. John's by 31 points in a game Coach Jim Calhoun now refers to as "The Funeral," beat Pitt easily because the Panthers couldn't handle UConn's pressure defense. Pitt's 26 turnovers spelled trouble for Coach Paul Evans, who then watched Georgetown dominate his team. It is the first time Pitt has lost four in a row under Evans.

And there's so much more fun in store.

Seems St. John's has finally come to the realization that cozy and antiquated Alumni Hall has become a dinosaur in the Big East. Associate athletic director Richard Laskowski says the university hopes to build a new arena on the parking lot near Alumni. He expects it will be ready for use when the Redmen's five-year contract with Madison Square Garden expires in 1994.

To help defray the enormous costs, Laskowski said, "We hope to find a corporate sponsor like the Carrier Dome or Villanova's duPont Pavilion. That's the way of the '90s. Our facility is getting tired. We investigated adding onto Alumni; it wasn't possible."

Eastern Basketball magazine relayed the following quote from Syracuse sophomore Billy Owens about leaving college for the NBA after this season. "I always think about leaving," he said. "I can't hack school no more and getting up and going to classes. . . . I'm thinking about leaving after this year. But I want Derrick to get No. 1 (in the draft), and if I go out this year he won't get No. 1."

What the story failed to mention was that Owens was talking all this trash for the benefit of teammate Derrick Coleman, who was sitting right behind him at the time.

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