Friday, October 9, 2009

What the Big East Needs to Do to No Longer Be the Big Least

FACT: The Big East is a... if not THE... premiere College Basketball conference.

With UConn, Louisville, Syracuse, Pitt, Villanova, Marquette, and Georgetown it's hard to deny.

FALSE: The Big is worthy of being considered a major College Football conference.

There's eight teams in the conference, none of which have any serious BCS hopes. There are also rumors of Louisville and Syracuse leaving within the next 3 years. That leaves the conference with 6 teams; Cincinnati, UConn, USF, Pitt, West Virginia, and Rutgers. For the conferences sake the first thing to do is add some mid-major teams.

Before I begin I am going to concede Syracuse and Louisville to the more powerful conference.

I believe twelve teams would be the target for the Big East conference to be taken seriously.

The first program that jumps out to me is last years MAC Champion, the University of Buffalo. Thanks to their location they'd make an easy fit, and the travel schedule wouldn't be as bad as it currently is in the MAC.

Another one that jumps out is Conference USA team UCF. They could easily set up a decent rivalry with USF that at least the people in Tampa and Orlando would care about... when they're not caring about... well.... The U, Florida, or FSU. Not to mention the three professional teams. Nonetheless, it's better than what the Big East has now.

The Big East could also bring Temple back, or Eastern Carolina in... but for the sake of this argument I think we'll stick with Buffalo and UCF. That brings the Big East to 8 teams.

Eight teams with none looking as good long term as some of the power teams in the Mountain West... ouch.

When you dissect the Big East, the most positive attribute has to be USF. What the Big East NEEDS to do is recruit 1-AA schools in prime time markets to make the jump up, develop a D1 program, get that D1 money, and help the Big East become respectable.

If you break it down about 10 teams come to mind as options.

UMass, Hofstra, Villanova, Delaware, Florida A&M, Georgetown, Richmond, and New Hampshire. I know that's picking apart the Colonial Atlantic... but the Colonial Atlantic is a premiere D1-AA conference and has produced some quality pro prospects this decade.

Of those 8, UMass is the most obvious choice. They've made noise about moving up to D1 before; but at the same time you don't know how much BC would enjoy that happening. Regardless, I think that UMass are team #9 in my picture.

The next team I throw in may seem random to initial readers, typical to some who know me, but it's Hofstra University. It only makes sense! Especially if Charles Wang's Hempstead revitalizing Lighthouse project goes through.

New York City has never had a D1 football team. The rest of the country is falling further and further in love with College Football, while New Yorkers are stuck with Rutgers, Syracuse or the D-1AA on the MSG network. Hofstra has a large student body, a lot of money, and used to be the home of the New York Jets practice facility.

The NCAA would also benefit from having a serious team in NY. Imagine the hype and publicity around a LSU, Florida, or heaven forbid (no really please forbid it) USC trip to the NY metropolitan area. It'd be huge for the sport.

Of course Hofstra and UMass wouldn't develop overnight. It'd take time, much like with USF; but recruiting to come play on Long Island, with the beaches, media, and NYC all right there, can't be too difficult. And UMass is UMass... it's Basketball program has already done the hard work for them.

So that's ten teams so far. If we don't lose Louisville and Syracuse it's 12.

I really hope we don't lose those two, but if we do, here's the next step.

Bryant University are in the transition of moving up to D1. Snag them. It shouldn't be too difficult.

And finally, pray that Notre Dame have a few more mediocre years and ruin their deal with the BCS. If the Irish are to enter a conference it would be the Big East. It's where they play all their other sports.

Bringing in Notre Dame would solidify the conference as a legit conference that can contend for the BCS every so often each decade, and here's what it'd look like:

Cincinnati, UConn, USF, Rutgers, Pitt, West Virginia, Notre Dame, UMass, Hofstra, Bryant, Buffalo, UCF. Not half bad.

The problem with this scenerio is that the only quick fix in this batch is Notre Dame, and Notre Dame joining the BCS wouldn't only be a desperation rankings maneuvering plot for the Irish. UMass, UCF, and Hofstra, who the conference would be hindering a lot of their hopes on, will likely take about five years before they can honestly compete with an above average out of conference team.

This is a conference that can be in trouble, but there are solutions, both short and long term. This conference is absolutely elite in basketball, and the schools are wealthy enough and get enough media hype to do the same in football. But there's one thing for sure;

When the Big East is good, the NCAA is better for it (see: the 2006 season with Louisville, Rutgers, and West Virginia and the ratings those games got nationwide.)

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