Bigger is better. Just ask the people in Texas, or the idea man behind ‘Super Sized’ at McDonald’s. In the case of Big East football, expanding to 12 members means making some tough choices with long-term impact. Adding the right schools now will help in that process.
But who is the ‘right’ school to join your tepid football brand? None of the schools in any of the other power conferences will be likely to join. Boston College makes sense, being stuck so far north in the ACC, but their divorce from the BE was a messy one, taking them out of the equation.
Maryland is another ACC member that might make a good target. They are natural rivals with West Virginia and have a past with BE members like Pitt and Syracuse. But I don’t think there is enough appeal for the Terps Administration to jump ship.
So what does that leave the BE to select from? Slim pickens really. Of the non-BCS schools, it becomes a matter of logistics. As they say in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location.
The first logical candidate is Central Florida. The Knights have the 3rd largest campus population in America. Their football program had more wins than any of the D-I schools in Florida last season, while the basketball program was ranked in the Top 25 at various points during the year. They would have South Florida to feud with in conference play and bring the Orlando TV market (19th) with them. Add some additional recruiting space in Florida to the mix and they make the most sense.
With Central Florida addressed, lets look towards the lone-star state and another member of Conference USA as team number two. The Houston Cougars.
Why Houston? Well, for many of the same reason listed above regarding Central Florida, except maybe the basketball program. The Cougars football program has improved over the past decade, despite a losing season in 2010. Head coach Kevin Sumlin seems poised to lead the UH back to a once proud past. They would give TCU an in-state and conference rival to battle with and add the 10th largest TV market in America. “
So who does that leave as the 3rd school?
The recent news that Army & Navy are being considered is sentimental and practical in a geographical sense. These two additions would be big mistakes.
We all know who the third program should be. So let’s just address the 900 pound Irish Elephant in the Vatican.
It’s time for the BE to just tell the fine folks in South Bend to either man up or get lost. The Big 10 has 12 and isn’t going to go to 13 just to have ND. 14 maybe, 16 more likely, but not for a few years if even. Notre Dame and its proud heritage of independence is great, but the Domers have had their cake and eaten it alone for far too long. It’s time to tell the Domers they need to join the BE party full time in all sports, or find a new girlfriend to play with when the mood strikes.
This is about economic survival and Notre Dame will ensure the BE survives. It may take some ‘creative financing’ to get it done, but that’s why the suits who run things get overpaid in the 1st place. To figure out things of this nature.
Notre Dame in the Big East for Football would allow the Conference to go to two division that could look something like this.
East Division - Syracuse, Connecticut, Rutgers, West Virginia, Central Florida, South Florida.
West Division- Pitt, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Louisville, Houston, TCU
Yes, I know this alignment breaks up Pitt & WVU and could threaten the yearly ‘Backyard Brawl’ but I’m willing to bet that game will still go on without fail. You get your five division opponents and three ‘crossover’ games that rotate. Pitt vs. WVU would have to be ‘grandfathered’ in. There is one other option I see regarding conference alignment in this scenario.
North Division- Syracuse, Connecticut, Rutgers, West Virginia, Pitt & Notre Dame
South Division- Cincinnati, Louisville, Houston, TCU, Central Florida, South Florida.
This setup gives Pitt direct access to Morgantown and aligns them with the Domers, who I think see Pitt as it’s most natural rival in the BE. The schools have met 65 times over the years, making the Panthers the 5th most played football opponent in the Irish’s long and storied history.
As far as Villanova or East Carolina joining, well thanks but no thanks. ‘Nova adds nothing to the party except the TV market they would bring and let’s be honest, nobody in Philadelphia cares about college football. As far as East Carolina, well it’s a nice football program , but its stuck about 90 miles East of Raleigh. Hell, they aren’t even on the coast of the state. They add zip.
For my cup of tea, and for the one BE Commissioner John Marinatto is sipping from, it should come down to adding Central Florida, Houston and Notre Dame. Nothing less than these three schools help the future of the Big East and only allows them to remain a conference weak and ready to be poached by the other bigger conferences when they decide it’s time to expand.
John Phillips is the author of this article and a secret member of the Galactic Empire. When he’s not chasing down Jedi across the Galaxy, he can be heard hosting weekend talk-shows and anchoring sports updates on 93.7 The Fan.