Yesterday Dave Gavitt, the founder of the Big East passed away. Yesterday the news broke that Syracuse and Pittsburgh will be leaving the Big East for the ACC. Yesterday Holy Cross beat Harvard in football 30-22. All of these stories are related.
If you are a sports fan from Worcester of a certain age - you know the story well. Dave Gavitt wants to form a new basketball league that will cash in on TV money and they want Holy Cross as one of their centerpiece schools. Father Brooks and the College of the Holy Cross say "No thanks."
Years later schools like Georgetown and St. John's are national powers and Holy Cross fans are asking "what if" questions.
Yesterday Dave Gavitt passed away and in a terribly cruel twist of fate the league he formed may have passed away with him. Syracuse and Pittsburgh leaving the Big East for the ACC became official this morning. All of which in my mind validates the wisdom of Father Brooks all those years ago.
Where would Holy Cross be today if they had joined the Big East? They would have had to have spent millions to upgrade the football program and to what end? The realist knows that football success in this day and age would not be possible. They can't draw athletes from a whole state or afford a modern stadium complete with luxury boxes like UConn. Holy Cross has an enrollment of just 2,900. Compare that to Villanova who has a student body of well over 7,000. A place like Notre Dame has an enrollment of around 8,500 and is actually considered small by the big-time college football movers and shakers. The cold, hard fact is that the student body at Holy Cross just could not support a big-time program. A BCS Holy Cross would be a joke Holy Cross. What benefit would come from Holy Cross getting whipped by TCU by 40 points? What benefit would that bring to the value of a Holy Cross degree?
People who still wish to believe that Holy Cross should have joined the Big East all those years ago will argue that the Crusaders could have been a basketball member of the Big East like Georgetown or Providence College. They would have a point. But where would that have left the football program which had an equally storied history as the basketball team? People forget that Holy Cross played in the Orange Bowl back when being in a Bowl really meant something. What about the football team? Do they try to exist in between worlds like Villanova? Do they drop the program - again like Villanova? Georgetown (enrollment over 9,000 undergrad and grad combined) didn't have football when the Big East was formed but they have since added a team to compete at the Holy Cross level which I would take as evidence that Holy Cross was doing things the right way.
People say that you are known by the company you keep - yesterday Holy Cross was associating with Harvard. They regularly associate with Ivy League schools and the reputations of the Patriot League schools are pretty much unblemished.
Today the Universities of the Big East are wondering what their future holds and how they could be so betrayed by "brother" institutions. Who is in the better situation?