Georgetown has a men’s basketball program rooted in tradition. But as powerhouses continue to flee the Big East Conference, the Hoyas must act quickly to avoid being left out of college basketball’s plans for the future.

Following the departure of Notre Dame, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and, most recently, Louisville, the Big East is facing a rapid decline in talent and prestige. The NCAA’s ephemeral landscape is driven by dollars, and while fans may wish to favor basketball over revenue, Georgetown will have an increasingly hard time playing by its own rules against the grain of collegiate trends.

Amid all of this conference instability, one thing is certain and steadfast: Georgetown basketball cannot accept mediocrity. The basketball program is too important — to the university, to the Athletic Department, to student life, to alumni relations, to Georgetown’s very identity — for our program to settle for the sub par scenario that the new Big East presents.

Staying in the Big East, with schools like Tulane, Memphis and Houston contracted to join, means accepting a lower level of competition. The Georgetown Hoyas are on their way to becoming the top team within the conference, but are we content with being the best among the average? Is being the biggest fish in the pond an accomplishment for a team that has appeared in the top 10 of the ESPN/USA Today’s Coaches Poll in the last six years and has reached the NCAA tournament in seven of the last 10?
To stay nationally relevant, the men’s basketball team needs to be able to schedule strong opponents each year, both before and during conference play. Recruiting and rankings are based in large part on whom you are going up against, and the Big East has consistently guaranteed Georgetown top-tier opponents every year.

But now, with the Big East’s declining, such strong schedules are not a guarantee. The program is at an important crossroads: Would it rather distinguish itself by going toe-to-toe against equal opponents or dominating weaker ones? To be fair, programs have succeeded doing the latter, but that is not the brand of basketball on which Georgetown has prided itself in the past.

There are many forces at work in this situation, and moving to another conference like the Atlantic Coast Conference might not be possible — after all, most of these decisions come down to the strength of a school’s football program or the attractiveness of its market. Georgetown’s football program, with its poor fan base and lackluster facilities, remains unfit for the expectations of Division I-A play. The decision against providing merit-based football scholarships puts the nail in that coffin.

As the university considers its next move — whether it’s buying out of the Big East or remaining a member — it must live up to the high standards of the Georgetown tradition. Going to Verizon Center and filling its stands with blue and gray-clad students is a staple of life here at Georgetown, and the university owes it to the student body to enable high-quality performance against high-profile matchups each year.

When asked repeatedly to comment on Georgetown’s future in the Big East, Head Coach John Thompson III has repeatedly stated that the conference has gone from unquestionably the best in the nation to arguably the best. If recent trends continue, that is an argument that he and the Hoyas are almost certain to end up losing in the end.

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