In his 14th year as athletic director at Drexel, Eric Zillmer absorbs the constant seismic shifts of the college sports landscape as business as usual.
Virginia Commonwealth just left Drexel's league, the Colonial Athletic Association, for the Atlantic Ten Conference. Was anybody shocked? Did that register on any collegiate Richter scale?
Zillmer made a point about how the shifts have similarities to recent meltdowns in the financial industries. The colleges like to think they are making moves to help their long-term interests, he said.
But, Zillmer said: "There's a lot of day-trading going on."
He's not saying that VCU made a bad move, or that Syracuse and Pittsburgh are wrong to leave the Big East Conference for the Atlantic Coast Conference, or that Boise State and San Diego State shouldn't play football in the Big East.
It's just that nobody knows.
"For me, it's hard to understand some of the decisions, but you know where the fault lines are," Zillmer said. "One is football. And I think the basketball schools are realigning themselves to make sure their mission is fully realized."
Two CAA schools, George Mason in 2006 and VCU in 2011, reaching basketball's Final Four - "the holy grail" - was "unbelievable to watch," Zillmer said. Those familiar schools knocked off a slew of BCS powers to get there.
"I think this success has created instability," Zillmer added, talking about his own league. "You'd think it would have created stability. They were now in the position where they could say, how do we do this again? And how do we cash in on our success?"
George Mason flirted with overtures from the A-10 but decided to stay put - for now. VCU and Butler move into the A-10 while Temple moves on to the Big East in 2013. St. Joseph's and La Salle appear to have dodged a bullet. Their league remains viable.
And for Drexel? Everybody on Market Street realizes that VCU's leaving means the conference's hoops profile will be hurt. They also realize that not having to play VCU in the CAA tournament in Richmond could be a good thing.
At Drexel, they're busy trying to fortify the nonconference schedule, which was judged insufficient to get a 27-win regular-season CAA champion into the 2012 NCAA tournament. (Suffice it to say, the selection committee judged the schedule, not the team.) On Market Street, they realize that March Madness is always the big goal, but can't be the lone goal.
Basketball coach Bruiser Flint and Zillmer both believe Drexel owes it to the student body to get a decent home schedule. Flint also knows that becoming road warriors can mess with a team's chemistry. He called it a disservice to his team.
"You're putting them in the lion's den," Flint said.
Right now, Flint has two nonconference home games confirmed for his 2012-13 schedule.
"I keep telling everyone, you want me to play all my games on the road?" Flint said this week. "You go around the country, nobody plays two [nonconference] home games."
The Dragons are in the Anaheim Classic this Thanksgiving. It has a quality (and RPI-helping) field that includes Xavier, California, and St. Mary's. They're also looking at one guarantee game, where they get paid to play a tough opponent on the road.
"Our go-to guarantee game is Syracuse," Flint said. "They usually give us a nice amount of money. I talked to Jim Boeheim about it. If it's still available, we'll do it."
Several other Big East teams have declined the opportunity to host his team, Flint said.
"I get that," said Flint, who has four returning starters. "You don't want to pay anybody and have them come in and beat you."
The Dragons, who won't have St. Francis or Binghamton on next year's schedule, are playing St. Joe's and Rider at home, and talking to La Salle about dates, and Temple, realizing the Dragons needed games, called after the season. The Owls, however, were interested in playing at the Palestra or on North Broad Street. Everybody is trying to do the same thing, get home games.
The Dragons lost one of their quality nonconference games when ESPN decided the CAA wouldn't be part of the BracketBusters pairings anymore. This decision was made after the CAA inked a new deal with NBC Sports.
"We knew that was a risk with going with a new package with NBC Sports," Zillmer said. "It probably hurt Drexel more than anybody else [in the CAA]. We were 3-0 in BracketBusters games."
And Drexel was due to get a home game in the mid-major series next season, Flint pointed out.
Well, television taketh away, but also giveth, since the Anaheim Classic is owned by ESPN.
There's no doubt television calls the shots more than ever, powering the train in scheduling games and in this whole realignment shake-up.
"Football drives the train," Zillmer said, "and I think basketball is one of the cars further down the train."