Can this man save the Big East?

The Big East Conference today got proactive with all the conference realignment talk by announcing that it has retained former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue as a special adviser.

In a release, Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said, “Few individuals have had as broad and deep experiences in sports as Paul Tagliabue. Paul’s understanding of collegiate athletics and academics and his extensive experience and leadership of the NFL for 17 years will certainly be invaluable to the BIG EAST Conference and its 16 member institutions.”

The release also went on at some length to point out the league’s multi-sport accomplishments.

It’s worth saying here that no less than the face of big-time college athletics in the Northeastern U.S. is at stake when we’re talking about what will happen to the Big East. I still maintain that Notre Dame agreeing to join the Big Ten is the most likely scenario to save the conference, but in an O. Henry-esque turn, it’s probably unthinkable that Notre Dame would do that unless forced to by — you guessed it — the raiding and weakening of the Big East as a home for Notre Dame’s non-football sports.

Tagliabue, I suspect, will waste no time in coming up with ideas for the league.

The first move I would anticipate — adding the Buffalo Bills to the Big East Conference.

I can already see the press release in my head.

“While the availability of game-changing big-time college football programs has been dwindling, the BIG EAST recognized the need for creative growth strategies,” Tagliabue said. “We identified Buffalo as a program early on that might have some interest. With a decade-long playoff drought of their own and the long-term success of the New England Patriots hanging over the team like a giant ash cloud, the time seemed right for Buffalo to make the move from AFC East to BIG EAST.”

The move makes the BIG EAST the first to add a professional team, though it should be noted that the Southeastern Conference, as well as USC, began using professional athletes long ago.


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