[SPORTS] – What Should the Big East Do?

With the Big East in a messy situation right now, there’s no shortage of speculation about how the Big East might act. We know that they’re going to expand, and it sounds like they plan to expand to 12 football-playing members. I don’t think they should stop at 12. Here’s a suggestion – just a back of the envelope suggestion – for a plan to cobble together a feasible conference that might – might – have a chance at keeping their BCS AQ bid.

First, forget Villanova. Yes, Villanova sounds like it wants to move up to FBS. But even if Villanova can make it happen, whenever it does happen the program is unlikely to do anything to help the Big East maintain its precarious AQ status. It will be years before they can compete at a high level – if ever. Cross that road when you come to it, but don’t build a plan around Villanova moving up at this point.

Second, invite UCF, Memphis, East Carolina and Temple for all sports. There are trade-offs to be made here. East Carolina and UCF likely add nothing outside of football, but they do provide the best football options the Big East is likely to see East of the Mississippi. Memphis and Temple help the league strengthen its basketball presence. Temple has not historically been a strong football program, but if they can keep up their recent success, it will help. Memphis’ football program is in atrocious shape right now, but there may not be any available program out there that can hope to fit the void left by Syracuse or Pittsburgh in basketball the way that Memphis can. The league will just have to work with them to rebuild the football program.

Third, invite Houston, SMU, Boise State, Fresno State, Colorado State, and San Diego State for football only. You can’t really ask these teams to join in non-football sports, because it would spin mid-week travel in non-football sports out of control. Yes, Air Force is a more attractive option than Colorado State, but I question whether Air Force would make the move without the other service academies. Can also consider Nevada, UNLV, and others for that Colorado State spot. Due to the need to maintain a contingent of western football teams to prevent travel from being too onerous for schools like Boise State, this may be the way to go.

Here’s the new 16-team football Big East, broken down into respective pods:

Pod A
Rutgers
UConn
Temple
West Virginia

Pod B
Cincinnati
Louisville
Memphis
East Carolina

Pod C
South Florida
Central Florida
Houston
SMU

Pod D
Boise State
Colorado State
Fresno State
San Diego State

In case you were wondering what a schedule would look like in this set-up, here’s two sample schedules for two top programs:

Sample Schedule for Boise State
Non-Con
Non-Con
Non-Con
@Rutgers
Temple
@Cincinnati
Memphis
@South Florida
Houston
Fresno State
@Colorado State
San Diego State

Sample Schedule for West Virginia
Non-Con
Non-Con
Non-Con
@Rutgers
UConn
@Temple
@Louisville
East Carolina
@Central Florida
SMU
San Diego State
@Fresno State


Is this a slam-dunk option for maintaining AQ status? Absolutely not. But there is no such option available. The best the Big East can do is cobble together teams that might help it maintain AQ status while, at the very least, putting together a football conference that can score a decent TV deal without hurting the basketball product.

As for the six football-only schools, this is where I think adding enough football-only schools West of the Mississippi helps. They can serve as the core of their own viable non-football conference. They can then go out and try to cherry-pick other schools to join in all non-football sports. They might be able to swing a non-football deal with the remaining WAC or Mountain West teams, or they could just go out and try to land some lesser programs to cobble together a decent conference. No, it wouldn’t be optimal, but, again, there is no such thing as optimal for teams not on the radar of the big conferences. Here’s a potential 12 team basketball conference featuring the six football-only Big East members:

Boise State
Montana
Montana State
Colorado State
Fresno State
San Diego State
Long Beach State
Cal State-Northridge
Houston
SMU
Texas State
Texas-San Antonio


Again, the idea isn’t to achieve perfect, which is not possible. The idea is to achieve an optimal set-up given the options reasonably available. This might seem to crazy to try, but I think it might just be crazy enough to work.

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