Big East Football Needs to Expand


Aug 9, 2009

The preseason USA Today Coaches’ Poll came out last week for college football. Noticeably absent from the Top 25 was the entire Big East. The top-ranked team from the Big East was Cincinnati, which was 29th.

Not a single preseason Top 25 selection for the Big East?

This is a sign of how far the Big East has fallen. For comparison, the Mountain West Conference has three teams in the preseason Top 25: TCU (17), Utah (18) and BYU (24). Even if one Big East team, like Cincinnati or West Virginia, steps up and has a great season, that won’t change the fact that the conference is weak overall.

Last season’s final USA Today Poll had one Big East team ranked in the Top 25 — Cincinnati at 17. Now this preseason, no team from the conference is ranked at all. This is hardly a case of bias. Big East teams are not being disrespected. They just aren’t that good.

Because of this, analysts have been debating whether the Big East is better or worse than the Mountain West.

The answer to this question depends on your point of view. On one hand, the top of the Big East is definitely inferior to the top of the MWC. (Last season, Utah and TCU both finished ranked in the Top 7.) However, the Big East as a whole is certainly better than the Mountain West. Either way, it’s embarrassing for a “Big Six” football conference to even be compared to a mid-major conference. Comparing the best team from a mid-major is one thing, but measuring the conference to a second-tier league is a little humiliating.

In college basketball, there are always good mid-majors. But basketball is different than football, because you only need a few players to have a good team. With so much basketball talent at the high school level, it is understandable that some mid-majors can constantly compete with the big boys.

In football, it takes a lot more than three good players to have a great team. Schools like USC, Florida and Michigan put so much money into their football programs that there is no reason for them not to be superior.

College football is not the NFL, where teams can only dress a certain number of players each week. College teams have over 100 players on their rosters. At a school like Michigan, most of these players are highly touted recruits. Common sense dictates that a mid-major school like TCU cannot field an entire team of high school All-Stars.

All right, enough bashing. Everyone knows the Big East is weak in football. The bigger concern is the future. What does the conference need to do to improve itself going forward?

To improve, the Big East needs to get both bigger and better. Last week, the New York Post reported that the Big East was interested in stealing Maryland and Boston College from the ACC.  The report was denied by the Big East as well as both colleges. However, this report got people thinking. Is the Big East attempting to add teams?

With only eight teams, the Big East is the smallest conference in Division I-A college football.  For the sake of the future, the conference needs to add some quality teams.

As far as candidates go, the league has three options.

Option 1: Steal a team from a mid-major conference. There is no reason why any team from a mid-major conference would not want to join the Big East. A team like East Carolina or Buffalo would certainly be open to making the move to a bigger conference.

Option 2: Add a I-AA school from the Northeast who is looking to make the jump to I-A.  A school like Delaware or UNH fits this bill. Or how about UMass? The Minutemen have expressed interest in moving to Division I-A and joining the Big East several times. Now seems like a great opportunity.

Option 3: Bring in a team that is currently an independent. Bryant University (formerly Brynat College) is currently in the process of making the switch to Division I-A. Or what about a team that already plays in the Big East in other sports, like Notre Dame. As of right now, the Irish have a sweet TV contract with NBC and a nifty deal with the BCS. However, one or two more average seasons, and these deals will both be in jeopardy. We live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world. Notre Dame administration has to consider this. Now may be a good time for them to finally join a conference.

For the Big East, the problem is that Notre Dame is the only quick fix. All the other schools are more long-term solutions. No matter what, the league needs to do something. This past week, ESPN went through a theoretical exercise where they did away with all the current conferences and created four new conferences. Of the 40 teams selected for this super league, only one Big East team (West Virginia) made the cut. This is a realistic sign of the times.

The conference needs to get bigger and better. They need to seriously look into what it would take to get two more quality schools in the league. If it could somehow add Notre Dame and UMass, that would bode well for both the short- and long-term success of the conference. Otherwise, the conference could be in trouble.

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