Learning Curve: What's Ahead in New Power League Digs for First-Year Members?
Last spring, self-serving coaches Mike Brey (Notre Dame) and Rick Pitino (Louisville) tried to convince Pittsburgh and Syracuse to stay put with them in the fraying Big East Conference. Well, circumstances and spiels can change in a hurry.
Brey was singing the ACC's praises after Notre Dame announced it will join the league ASAP with Pitt and the Orange. And was there any doubt that nomadic Louisville, which was already affilated with four different leagues in the last 40 years, was next to abandon ship for a higher profile loop when a slot opened up in the ACC upon Maryland's departure to the Big Ten? Perhaps Pitino would have been obligated to remain in the Big Easy (after most of the power went out), but his salvage job brainstorm of hiring ESPN analyst Jay Bilas as commissioner didn't gain any traction.
Final Four matchups such as Memphis/Providence (1973), Georgetown/Louisville (1982), Georgetown/Houston (1984) and Memphis/Villanova (1985) were great in the view of Big East visionary Dave Gavitt, but they're not what he had in mind for regional regular-season conference competition when the league was introduced at the start of the 1980s. Half of the Big East's 14-member lineup in 2003-04 will be gone upon the latest ACC-bound defections. The Big East would have had as many members (seven) from Conference USA's 2004-05 alignment next year if Texas Christian didn't renege on its commitment, switching gears for the Big 12. If the C-USA wasn't considered a power conference, then why should a stitched-together Big Least?
Louisville, Maryland, Notre Dame, Pitt, Rutgers and Syracuse should keep an eye on how Missouri, Texas A&M, TCU and West Virginia make the transition to new digs. History shows that it frequently is a difficult adjustment. Fans of Mizzou, A&M and TCU are hoping their woeful non-conference slates don't leave the newcomers ill-prepared for the rigors of competing in a new league.
There is good reason to be anxious. Only seven of the last 24 schools to join power conferences, including three of the first 11 since 2005-06, posted a winning league record in their inaugural campaign. Arkansas is the only school to win a championship in its debut campaign in a power league (1991-92 in SEC Western Division after leaving SWC). Boston College (2005-06) and Florida State (1991-92) posted the next best first-year league marks in the ACC, where Notre Dame, Pitt and Syracuse will strive to duplicate their performances.
The average conference record for the last 24 schools in this category is four games below .500. Michigan State posted a comparable anemic mark (5-9) in its first season in the Big Ten in 1950-51. Following is a look at the first-year league records compiled by schools joining an existing power alliance since Arizona and Arizona State left the WAC for the Pac-8/10 in the late 1970s:
|Power School||1st Year||New League (Mark/Finish)||Previous League|
|Arizona||1978-79||Pac-10 (10-8/T4th)||Western Athletic|
|Arizona State||1978-79||Pac-10 (7-11/T6th)||Western Athletic|
|Arkansas||1991-92||Southeastern (13-3/1st in West)||Southwest|
|Boston College||2005-06||Atlantic Coast (11-5/3rd)||Big East|
|Cincinnati||2005-06||Big East (8-8/8th)||Conference USA|
|Colorado||2011-12||Pac-12 (11-7/T5th)||Big 12|
|DePaul||2005-06||Big East (5-11/T13th)||Conference USA|
|Florida State||1991-92||Atlantic Coast (11-5/2nd)||Metro|
|Georgia Tech||1979-80||Atlantic Coast (1-13/8th)||Metro|
|Louisville||2005-06||Big East (6-10/T11th)||Conference USA|
|Marquette||2005-06||Big East (10-6/T4th)||Conference USA|
|Miami (Fla.)||1991-92||Big East (1-17/10th)||independent|
|Miami (Fla.)||2004-05||Atlantic Coast (7-9/T6th)||Big East|
|Missouri||2012-13||Southeastern (TBD)||Big 12|
|Nebraska||2011-12||Big Ten (4-14/T11th)||Big 12|
|Notre Dame||1995-96||Big East (4-14/6th in BE 6)||independent|
|Penn State||1992-93||Big Ten (2-16/11th)||Atlantic 10|
|Pittsburgh||1982-83||Big East (6-10/6th)||Eastern 8|
|Rutgers||1995-96||Big East (6-12/6th in BE 7)||Atlantic 10|
|South Carolina||1991-92||Southeastern (3-13/6th in East)||Metro|
|South Florida||2005-06||Big East (1-15/16th)||Conference USA|
|Texas A&M||2012-13||Southeastern (TBD)||Big 12|
|Texas Christian||2012-13||Big 12 (TBD)||Mountain West|
|Utah||2011-12||Pac-12 (3-15/11th)||Mountain West|
|Villanova||1980-81||Big East (8-6/T3rd)||Eastern Athletic Association|
|Virginia Tech||2000-01||Big East (2-14/7th in East)||Atlantic 10|
|Virginia Tech||2004-05||Atlantic Coast (8-8/T4th)||Big East|
|West Virginia||2012-13||Big 12 (TBD)||Big East|