The way Jake Crouthamel sees it, the Big East is completely at the mercy of the Big Ten.
The Big Ten won't decide whether to expand until December. But if it does, and the league targets some combination of Rutgers, Syracuse, Connecticut and Pittsburgh to join a new 16-team super-conference, there won't be much the Big East can do to stop it.
"It all depends on what the Big Ten does," Crouthamel, the former Syracuse athletic director, said in a phone interview. "Everybody's sitting around on their hands waiting for the Big Ten to move. That's going to prompt everything else that happens across the country."
Echoing comments he first made last week to The New York Times, Crouthamel went so far as to say that it is only a matter of time before Syracuse leaves the Big East for a super-conference.
"I think it would be difficult for Syracuse to pass up any other opportunities it has because of the money," Crouthamel said. "This is a financial thing. These are financial decisions, and I think the money moving to another conference, an expanded conference, whether it's the ACC or the Big Ten, the money is going to be significantly better.
"From a financial standpoint, from a business standpoint, Syracuse would almost have to take the opportunity, like it or not."
The Big Ten's conference television payout for football teams is nearly triple the Big East's $7 million per program.
"Football's very important, obviously, from a national landscape and to the schools in our conference that play in it," Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said in a phone interview. "In the Big East Conference history, probably every expansion move that we've made has been for the most part focused on helping our football schools. Football is very, very important to what we do and obviously a very significant piece of whatever it is that's going to happen in the future."
Marinatto just returned from meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz., with the heads of the 10 other Football Bowl Subdivision conferences.
And while all the talk is focused on Big Ten expansion, Marinatto says he can only look out for his own conference.
"It's not my place to talk about what the Big Ten might or might not do," he said. "It's my place to talk about the Big East Conference and what we can do and where we're going."
Last week the Big East announced that Paul Tagliabue, the former NFL commissioner, will be working with the Big East as a "special adviser."
Tagliabue was not immediately available for comment but he had some stern words for the Big Ten's expansion plans when speaking with The New York Times.
"One of the real challenges for the networks is to provide value, but you only provide value in markets where you provide traction," he told The Times. "Is Minnesota and Rutgers going to get a big rating on Long Island? Give me a break. Every game isn't Michigan and Michigan State."
He added, "Am I going to rush home from a tennis game on Saturday to watch Minnesota and Rutgers if I live on Long Island?"
Still, the Big Ten could well raid the Big East, just as the ACC took Miami, Boston College and Virginia Tech back in 2005.
Crouthamel says Syracuse will be among the next to go.
'I don't who know [the Big Ten's] choice would be but from the television market perspective, the Big Ten would like to have Central New York and upstate New York," he said. "Penn State doesn't deliver that. Nobody delivers that except the school in central or upstate New York, which is Syracuse."
The Big East was built as a basketball conference, and the league is now arguably the premier basketball conference in the nation. Two years ago, three of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament came out of the Big East and this past year, the Big East was the only league to put eight teams into the Big Dance.
Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim, who has been coaching in the league since 1970, doesn't think Crouthamel is necessarily right about the future, though.
"Jake thought we would be done when Boston College and Miami went to the ACC and we're not," Boeheim said Monday by phone. "So nobody knows the answer to this thing."
Boeheim would prefer to remain in the Big East, where Syracuse has time-tested rivalries with Georgetown, UConn and St. John's, as opposed to forging new ones with Iowa, Illinois and Michigan.
"I would rather the way we are," he said. "I'm not stupid. Why would we want to change something that's very successful for us?"
Still, Boeheim said, Syracuse would adapt, no matter where it landed.
"If we went to the Big Ten we would make the best of it," he said. "To me it's always difficult when you're playing way away and you're the new guy in the league. I think that's difficult. I'm always skeptical of that. Could we compete? Sure we could."
Is it inevitable that Syracuse will bolt the Big East for the Big Ten?
"I believe there's only one thing that's inevitable in life," Boeheim said. "I really don't know. I have no idea."