In the new issue of the Catholic Telegraph of Cincinnati, columnist John Stegeman asks us to consider “what could have been” had the newly reconfigured Big East college basketball conference been all-Catholic:

But I can’t help but feel there was a missed opportunity here. The seven previous Big East schools founding the new league were known as the Catholic 7, referring to all of them being Catholic universities. Xavier and Creighton are Catholic schools too.

Before any even thinks it, let me stress I’m not complaining about Butler. Butler is a fine school. It is a private institution with a Christian heritage and in all the ways that make sense in modern athletics, it is a perfect fit for the new Big East, which officially comes into being July 1.

But this could have been an all Catholic league.

I’m all for inclusion, and like I said, Butler’s inclusion is fine. It is just that an all-Catholic league could have established an identity that worked wonders. Perhaps it could have had a rule about not playing on Sundays (except maybe when the NCAA tourney demands it), or special prayers at the beginning of each game, could be worked in. The possibilities are really endless.

Some of the things the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is implementing for its youth sports could be applied to an all Catholic athletic conference. Think what it could have been to have nine powerfully successful schools that viewed athletics as an outreach ministry. You could still play high-level ball and compete for national titles, but you could do it while proclaiming the gospel as your primary end.

Think what powerful force the nine Catholic schools in this league, basketball powers all, could have been for the new evangelization. Catholics Come Home commercials could have been a mainstay of the conference post-season tournament broadcast.

An all Catholic league identity might have hurt recruiting to some degree, sure, I grant that. But if Cincinnati is any example there’s no shortage in this nation of talented Catholic high school athletes. Many of their parents would no doubt relish the idea of their kids going to compete in a league where Jesus Christ, and not the bottom line or the final score, came first.

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