Big East Football: A Big Folly?

The Big East Football Conference is in the midst of experiencing its biggest changes since its founding in 1991. Gone are perennial powers Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College as well as league doormat, Temple. New to the conference are Louisville, Cincinnati, and South Florida. Some are calling the changes one big folly; while others believe that the conference will shake off its losses and move forward stronger and wiser.

Three letters have hurt the Big East Conference over the past few years. They are: A-C-C. ACC, as in Atlantic Coast Conference, who lured and then persuaded three Big East schools to make the leap over to the ACC. For the Big East, the three schools represented the league’s top football powers as well as two high performing Men’s Basketball squads: Boston College and Miami. In this age of lucrative television contracts and super conferences the three defecting schools took the money and ran.

Purists were left howling by the departures and at the ACC’s trolling of the Big East Conference. Some suggested lawsuits, while others stated that there was no legal obligation for the schools to stay.

Once it was confirmed that the three departing schools would leave, the Big East Conference was faced with a dilemma that could only undermine its ability to not only thrive, but to survive. It had previously been decided that Temple would be forced out as their program did not measure up to Big East Conference standards, or so it has been said. Still, Temple was not invited back and the Big East began to look elsewhere for schools to fill their depleted ranks. So, the Big East turned to the Conference USA.

Louisville, Cincinnati, and South Florida – along with Marquette who doesn’t play football – were all persuaded to leave Conference USA for the Big East. For some, this is where the folly begins.

Do the three new schools measure up to the programs which they are replacing? Absolutely not. Louisville comes closest and is likely nearly equal to Boston College in strength, but their football program does not compare to either 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 league’s warm weather school. Just kidding…I think.

The remaining conference schools are Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, and West Virginia. West Virginia is the current conference leader while Rutgers is taking advantage of a weakened conference and also sitting near the top. The remaining schools are rebuilding, making the Big East Conference extra weak this year.

The pundits and prognosticators know that the Big East is reeling and they understand that there is no guarantee that the present league configuration will produce football programs on the level of the dearly departed members. In my opinion, give the conference two or three years and you may find that with just a couple of years of excellent recruiting new leaders will emerge. Perhaps now is the time for Rutgers, Louisville, and South Florida to step it up a notch or two, thereby ensuring valuable television rights and lucrative bowl bids for the conference.