The Big East Football Conference is going through its biggest changes since its founding in 1991. Gone are the eternal powers of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College as well as the league doormat, Temple. Newcomers to the conference are Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida. Some call the changes great folly; while others believe the conference will shed its losses and move forward stronger and wiser.
Three letters have harmed the Big East Conference in recent years. They are: A-C-C. ACC, as in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which attracted and then persuaded three Big East schools to make the leap to ACC. For the Big East, the three schools represented the biggest footballing powers in the league as well as two high-performing men’s basketball teams: Boston College and Miami. In this era of lucrative TV deals and super conferences, the three bankrupt schools took the money and ran.
The purists were left howling by the ACC departures and lag behind the Big East conference. Some suggested lawsuits, while others said there was no legal obligation for schools to stay.
Once it was confirmed that the three starting schools would be leaving, the Big East Conference was faced with a dilemma that could only compromise its ability to not only thrive, but also survive. It had previously been decided that Temple would be kicked out because their program did not live up to Big East Conference standards, at least that’s what has been said. Still, Temple was not invited to return and the Big East began to look elsewhere for schools to fill their depleted ranks. So the Big East turned to the USA Conference.
Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida – as well as Marquette who doesn’t play football – were all persuaded to leave Conference USA for the Big East. For some, this is where the madness begins.
Do the three new schools live up to the programs they replace? Absolutely not. Louisville comes closest and probably almost on par with Boston College in strength, but their football schedule doesn’t compare to Virginia Tech or Miami. Cincinnati compares much more favorably to the departed Temple team, while South Florida is a new Division 1-A program and was only added to replace Miami as the hot-weather school of the league. Just kidding … I think so.
The other conference schools are Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, and West Virginia. West Virginia is currently the conference leader while Rutgers takes advantage of a weakened conference and also sits near the top. The remaining schools are being rebuilt, making the Big East Conference even weaker this year.
Pundits and prognosticators know the Big East are in shock and understand that there is no guarantee that the league’s current setup will produce hard-departed member-level football programs. In my opinion, give the conference two or three years and you may find that with just a few years great recruitments of new leaders will emerge. Now may be the time for Rutgers, Louisville and South Florida to step it up a notch or two, securing valuable TV rights and lucrative offers for the conference.