During recent media sessions, specifically those that came after the latest Big East schools announced they were leaving the conference for greener ($$$) pastures, John Thompson III showed minimal interest in having a big picture discussion about the conference that's been part of nearly his entire life. Talk regarding the upcoming opponent, fine, but about some other institution's plan and how it might affect Georgetown's future, not so much.
In theory reporters showed up Thursday afternoon at McDonough Arena on the Georgetown campus for insight into the No. 15 ranked Hoyas matchup Saturday against Western Carolina. The latest round of Big East rumors altered the agenda. This time, Thompson's demeanor turned practical. After all, this time it's his school -- along with other members of the so-called Catholic-7 -- reportedly set for a stunning announcement.
Not that Thompson himself broke any news or even offered much insight into the University's future plans, though multiple reports before and after the press conference indicate Georgetown is indeed making a move. USA Today reported an announcement is imminent.
Whether it's to dissolve the Big East or start something new, the Hoyas are not set to go it alone. St. John's, Villanova, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, and DePaul are ready to jump. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Georgetown is the one school not quite all in as school President John J. DeGioia grapples with the idea of his school leaving the conference it help found in 1979.
"I don't think I'm out of line speaking for president [John] DeGioia or [athletic director Lee] Reed," Thompson said. "It's not going to be an emotional decision. It's going to be a decision based on research and projections of what's best for this institution, as much as we can control."
That line about control may indeed explain the timing. Following Louisville's announced exit in late November, only 10 Big East schools currently have voting rights, according to various reports. For a decision on dissolving the conference or perhaps other weighty matters, change requires 2/3 majority. Do the math - and note the arrival of the SMU's and Houston's of the world changes that dynamic next season. The bulk of the next generation of Big East school's officially enter the ranks for the 2013-14 campaign
If dissolving the league and in turn deciding its own fate is the desire, there might not be another time than now for the seven schools.
While there are certain shared matters including incoming NCAA Tournament revenue and collecting fees from the other programs that have made their move, the basketball-only schools do not have carbon copy concerns. Certainly, they don't share identical resumes or cultural resonance.
The Georgetown brand trumps its Big East Catholic brethren and it will be the tent pole for any new conference. This is the Hoyas trump card and why the program's identity should remain prominent regardless of conference affiliation (though an association misstep could limit visibility and recruiting upside). This could explain why the other six are reportedly ready to move and the Hoyas are taking a contemplative approach.
"You walk down the hall into the equipment room right there and every jersey says Georgetown," Thompson said. "That's who we are. We are being lumped together, fair or unfair."
Ultimately the Hoyas private school and no D-I football profile fits best with the Villanova's and Marquette's rather than the larger schools led by gridiron program.
Asked whether the Big East's brand had been altered with the ever-changing lineup, Thompson concurred before adding, "It's one of those things we haven't the luxury of playing out how it is going to look so it's hard to analyze that question. You've heard me say several times we've gone from being unquestionably the best basketball conference to arguably the best basketball conference.
"It's still evolving and changing. It's hard to say how has it been altered when we have operated under the new teams, the new league, the new formula, the new world that we live in, yet."
Most observers can state with conviction that indeed, especially from a hoops perspective, this is no longer your father's Big East, certainly not after this season when Georgetown's greatest rival Syracuse heads for the ACC.
There is a legitimate fear that Connecticut and Cincinnati would leave should the ACC or another stable power conference come calling.
The largely football-based outsiders are replacing the Catholic-7's longtime partners - and taking the larger chunk of the financial pie over the basketball-only schools.
By making the move - ideally with the Big East name and Madison Square Garden locale for conference tournaments in tow - the seven can enter the evolving world with its basketball roots underneath them. Program-needy television and cable networks will have interest in a major market hoops conference - one that rumors suggest could include Atlantic 10 programs Xavier, Butler, VCU. St. Louis and Dayton, perhaps more geographically distant institutions like Creighton and Gonzaga.
Thursday afternoon Thompson deflected questions like a shutout-seeking hockey goalie. No question slipped by without the coach reflecting on its merit. His carefully crafted responses to said questions covered up his own feelings on the matter. As for signs of sentiment, no actual goalie mask was required on this rather pragmatic day. However the man who followed in his father's literal and figuratively large footsteps understands a new day is dawning.
Asked about if ending the Big East seems like an inexplicable option, Thompson said, "I think I would have my head in the sand if I said that was incomprehensible right now. The Big East absolutely is a part and has been a part of my life. As a fan initially and now intimately involved, since its inception, but we're going through an evolution. Change happens."
There is no getting around that fact, not in today's college sports world. There is also no getting around the fact that the schedule rolls on. After the media session Thompson left McDonough briefly for some food refueling before attacking his afternoon agenda. Taking a second pass at Western Carolina's recent tight loss to highly-ranked Illinois occupied his thoughts. Upon his return the coach stopped by a group still discussing Georgetown's potential moves. After his brief and largely silent partner cameo, the coach made his own exit. "I have to go watch Western Carolina," Thompson said. "If you figure anything out, let me know."