While the Big East waits for its seven catholic institutions to decide their future, the conference is busying itself planning for any contingency that may result – including where future conference women’s basketball tournaments will be played after this season.
Danielle Donehew, associate commissioner of the Big East for women’s basketball, says the conference office is waiting just like everyone else for a resolution, buti is not inactive as it does.
“Everything is on the table now, as far as timing and pending litigation of some of our members is concerned,” Donehew said. “That requires to us to pay attention to what may happen, the timing of it all, in terms of making a decision for the future of our sport.”
The Catholic 7 have retained a lawyer and consultant to help it decide what its options are. There’s a possibility the schools could secede and start play in 2013-14, either in a newly named league or one that bears the conference name.
Donehew says the Big East office staff has managed to stay focused on working at if all will be status quo.
“I’ve been extremely impressed with our staff. It’s a tremendous group, talented and committed to the league,” Donehew said. “Many of them have worked here for more than 15 years. It’s been encouraging for someone like me, just in my fourth year, to see.
“And we have taken the approach that we will work with the information we’re given and think outside the box by preparing for any scenario that might happen. We’ve developed a number of contingency plans and strategies which has provided us solid exercises for preparedness.
“There are many possibilities we will be ready when something happens.”
With SMU, Temple, Central Florida, Houston and Memphis, perhaps even Tulane, scheduled to join UConn, Cincinnati and South Florida as basketball schools, the Big East could have as many as 17 or 18 teams or as few as eight next season, depending on the Catholic 7 and Louisville and Notre Dame, which have not officially announced when they will join the ACC.
“We committed, as a conference last year to an 18-year conference schedule [in 2013-14],” Donehew said.
Still, one thinks if a mass exodus left the conference with just eight or nine teams next season, the conference would need to reconsider the format or else be faced with a logistically difficult task.
The Big East currently plays a 16-game conference schedule in women’s basketball.
The Big East tournament, which has been played at the XL Center since 2004, is in the final year of a two-year deal. No one knows what the future of the event will be.
“The XL Center is in its own [managerial] bid process,” Donehew said. “AEG Management is trying to retain its management of the facility. So once that decision is made, then we can do what we need to do as a conference to take into account what our membership wants for what’s best for the future.”
Donehew has had a close working relationship with AEG during her tenure. But she knows change in XL Center management, and a change in league membership, could result in the tournament being moved to a new location.
“As the membership continues to change, we’ll have different people at the table [league members] and we will be able to continue to work on what to do about the championship. We’ll see what the right choice might be.”