Tulane keeps eye on new conference amid upheaval

NEW ORLEANS — Just 17 days ago, Tulane University President Scott Cowen and Athletics Director Rick Dickson smiled wide, unfurled a red, white and blue banner, officially welcoming the Big East to the Big Easy.

Since then, the Green Wave has watched a wrecking ball fly through its new home.

The latest damage comes from a variety of reports stating the Big East’s seven basketball-only members — Georgetown, Villanova, St. John’s, St. Joseph’s, Seton Hall, DePaul and Marquette — are stepping away from the league.

Both Cowen and Dickson declined to be interviewed by The Advocate, but the university released a statement concerning its future conference brethren.

“Two weeks ago Tulane University accepted a unanimous invitation by the university presidents to join the BIG EAST in 2014,” the statement read. “We remain committed to the BIG EAST and to those members who desire to remain a part of the conference. Tulane’s President and Athletics Director are actively involved in planning for the conference’s future.”

It’s the second blow the Big East has suffered since Tulane’s inclusion. Louisville’s departure to the Atlantic Coast Conference just a day after Tulane’s entrance enhanced an already tumultuous situation in the league.

A projected drop in future revenue sounded alarms. After the Big East reportedly turned down a $1 billion (over $100 million per year) offer from ESPN for its TV rights last year, CBS Sports reported last week estimates for its impending deal are likely to land between $60-$80 million per season, a precipitous drop.

Losing Louisville along with traditional Big East programs Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Rutgers were initially pinned as the culprit.

However, in recent days, a variety of reports filtered out of Big East circles and ESPN criticizing Tulane’s acceptance into the conference, including scathing public remarks by Marquette Athletics Director Larry Williams on ESPN Radio 100.5-FM in Milwaukee.

“I was not pleased that we issued an invitation to Tulane without any diligence to what effect that would have on our basketball product, the draw on our RPI and other such things,” Williams said. “I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to participate as a member of the conference in the deliberation that went into adding that.”

The Green Wave fled to the Big East following massive turnover in its current home, Conference USA, where it’s served as a charter member since 1996.

Fellow C-USA schools Memphis, Houston, Central Florida and SMU are all scheduled to begin Big East play next season, while Tulane and East Carolina (football only) will join in 2014.

The most prominent decision remaining is whether or not the league will choose to dissolve.