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More College Basketball News

Bring Back the ACC/Big East Challenge

By Raphielle Johnson



Bring Back the ACC/ Big East Challenge

Give the people what they want


                In this downtime before the start of another basketball season, college football has done a lot to make sure that there are no boring weekends during the fall. The fans, plays, and bands among other things, give us college sports fans ample opportunities to release energy held inside during the work week. But this fall has also given us the annoying tendency of analysts to bring up the ACC/ Big East conference shift over…and over…I think you all get the point. Remember the days of the late 80s and early 90s, when the two leagues would meet in the ACC/ Big East Challenge? Those games over the course of two or three days would give basketball fans across America, not just those on the East Coast, hard-nosed hoops played at a skill level nearly as high as a Final Four game. So in this era of lawsuits and name-calling, why not get the two leagues back together to settle the bragging rights once and for all. Below is an open letter to the commissioners of the two leagues, Mike Tranghese (Big East) and John Swofford (ACC).



Dear Commissioners Tranghese and Swofford,


                My name is Raphielle Johnson, and I write this letter to you on behalf of the majority of college basketball fans throughout America. The last year has given us all a crash course in the new landscape which is college athletics. Cases such as Maurice Clarett, Mike Williams, and even more underclassmen leaving school for the NBA have littered the headlines in the past year. But the most significant event was the realignment of your two conferences.


Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College (starting in 2005 for the Eagles) have packed their bags in hopes of making the Atlantic Coast Conference the best football league in America. In response, Big East members filed lawsuits, both leagues engaged in a war of words, and five Conference USA schools hopped on board the Big East wagon for next season (Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette, and South Florida). Everything financially has been finalized, but the equally important bragging rights are still up for grabs.


This is why I write you both today, in hopes of bringing back the ACC/ Big East Challenge. Yes, Mr. Swofford, you already play the Big Ten in a similar scenario, but has the Big Ten ever won a challenge? I don’t recall a year when they did. Plus, how many years have we been “blessed” with Florida State/ Northwestern and Penn State/ Clemson on the ACC/ Big Ten Challenge docket? Too many if you ask me. Just looking at the Big East and Big Ten would show anyone with some sort of common sense which league would be more of a challenge for you on the hardwood.


Just imagine Connecticut playing Maryland, where Gary Williams may still blow a gasket if you bring up the recruitment of Rudy Gay. How about sending Cincinnati down to Cameron Indoor Stadium to play the Dookies? Huggins and Krzyzewski battling it out would be a treat for us all. And on the low end of the spectrum, you could send Clemson to the Garden to play St. John’s, given the TV ratings potential of the New York metropolitan area. You’ve already made even further strides in recruiting the entire East Coast, both by name and by getting the Boston market, so why not get into even more living rooms with this challenge?


As for you, Mr. Tranghese, this would be the perfect opportunity to get some of the proverbial pie off of your face, given the way that the conference shakedown went for you. You had a tough go of it last summer, but the ACC/ Big East Challenge would give you and your league members a shot at redemption. South Florida was added to keep a foot in Florida (football recruiting, so it makes sense), so why not let them head down to Miami to play the Hurricanes? It would make for some interesting, if not high quality, basketball. And Marquette, DePaul, and Louisville could most definitely hold their own with the likes of North Carolina, Wake Forest, and N.C. State.


You added the new membership with the priority of making the Big East the best basketball league in America, so why hold back? Challenge the conference that most experts seem to anoint the best year in and year out, and then this all can be settled on the court, not at a water cooler. I know it doesn’t make much sense given the last two national champions hail from the Big East, but the ACC is a deeper hoops league right now.


I’ve given you each the fan’s reason as to why this challenge should be revived, but here’s the “dollars and cents” of it: your leagues would both stand to profit from this. You think that ESPN wouldn’t readily throw bags of money on the table to have the broadcasting right to this cornucopia of baskets? You’d be a fool not to take advantage of this potential cash cow.


Mr. Swofford, just look at the Big Ten right now. Indiana…down, despite the top recruiting classes. Purdue…down as well. Michigan’s back on the rise and Michigan State still needs a point guard. Illinois is the class of the league, and after the Illini, I don’t know who else would help the Big Ten win three games in the ACC/ Big Ten Challenge this year. In these made-for-television events, it’s only a matter of time before the powers that be (the networks) decide that this is not worth their time or money.


Mr. Tranghese, why not put the media markets of New York, Newark (Seton Hall/ Rutgers), and Washington, D.C. (Georgetown) to god use? You’ll have Chicago (DePaul) and Milwaukee (Marquette) at your disposal next season as well. In the words of Charles Barkley, “anything less would be uncivilized”. So to both of you, I leave this quote from an NFL Films show I watched a long time ago:


“You can get it done. You can get it done. What’s more, you gotta get it done.”


I’d like to thank you both for your time, and hopefully you will bring this issue up at your league meetings in the near future. There may be hard feelings, but what does standing in your separate corners of the room do for the situation? Shake hands, and give the people what they want while filling your pockets. Isn’t that the point of college athletics anyway? That one’s for another day and time, just get this done. Thanks.


Respectfully Yours,

Raphielle Johnson



P.S.: If this happens, scheduling UConn to play Boston College would be interesting. Just don’t tell Coach Calhoun about it ahead of time…might be a bad idea.



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