If you read between the lines, it looks like the Big East, which is still smarting from three of its members joining the ACC, is getting a little desperate when it comes to its position in the landscape of college football.Â And the reality of college sports is that it is football that drives change, because the multi-billion dollar contract that exists for the NCAA Tournament gives schools some financial certainty, no matter which conference they affiliate themselves with.
With threats on the horizon — most glaringly, that the Big Ten, with its 11 members, will one day add a 12th — the Big East is focusing on how it can get stronger.
Two sources said the eight-team Big East would consider adding a ninth member by exploring whether there was interest on behalf of Maryland to jump from the ACC, and for Boston College to rejoin the league.
Both seem a little far-fetched on the surface, but Maryland always has played Big East schools, and the balance of power in the ACC is in the south. And Boston College is learning that life in the ACC, where it has no natural rivals, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
I suppose that the BC – Virginia Tech rivalry that they had in the Big East no longer applies?Â Perhaps not.Â But BC’s real “natural” rival seems to Notre Dame anyway, considering the two schools’ Catholic roots.
As for Maryland leaving, that’s interesting, considering that the Terps are a founding member of the ACC, and despite their constant carping about how the league treats them as if they are “Alaska,” they seem to be 100% solid as far as their current conference membership goes.
I think that Lenn Robbins is just talking of his hindquarters, but the suggestion and his intimation of there being some reality to it is interesting.Â Keep in mind that there was only whispers of ACC expansion in the spring before it happened.
Alone and by itself, I would write off Robbins’ article as space-filling rumor mongering, but now comes this:
Desmond Conner, Hartford Courant: Think This Would Work? (A 20-team ACC/Big East merger.)
Four years ago, on the heels of the ACC’s raid of the Big East and its additions, all 16 schools agreed to a five-year contract to stay together. That’s become public information. It wasn’t supposed to public information.Â The Big East won’t confirm whether it’s true or not but it is true.
After the 2009-10 academic year, if they wanted, the Big East’s football-playing schools could split with, I believe, no penalty.
The Big East football conference coaches, for the most part, are in favor of expanding for a team that adds value, an athletic, academic and financially successful future. But they, along with league officials say that “team” isn’t out there.
So does that mean the Big East sits and does nothing and stays the way it is?
It shouldn’t. It can’t. Here’s an idea for the presidents of the eight Big East schools, ACC commissioner John Swofford and his schools’ presidents:
Why don’t the eight-football playing schools get up and go link with the ACC 12 to form a 20-team all-sports league, a super-conference, you know, the wave of the future, and just control the entire East Coast’s TV markets, rule the world in basketball with crazy competition and paydays in football and basketball?
Hmmm.Â Unwieldy, and between John Swofford and Mike Tranghese, two men who supposedly loathe one another, who would give up the reins to let the other run this new super-conference?Â Â I can’t say that either would budge.Â Yes, I know that Tranghese stepped down and John Marinatto runs the patchwork conference, but I would think Tranghese might get over his fear of flying long enough to get the idea of a “Big ACC” off the ground, given a chance.Â In the Big East, he is gone but certainly not forgotten.
Perhaps the first event of a theoretical “Big ACC” should be a modern version of the Aaron Burr – Alexander Hamilton Duel?Â Despite its new affiliation with the SEC, even ESPN would cover that.Â After all, they cover other “sports” like poker.Â The ratings payoff would be enormous, of course, and if there is one thing that Tranghese and Swofford can agree on, it’s that they value money over anything else, especially silly stuff like tradition.
And before you write all of this off as “much ado about nothing” then consider this
While the prevailing winds in Newport were all about the potential new bowl game tie-ins, the underlying current continued to be about the addition of a ninth team to the conference. The current eight-team configuration has been nothing but trouble, especially scheduling-wise, and for the moment, the only thing the league’s coaches can do is complain about it.And complain they did.
“I’ve got neighboring states that I have called. They’ve talked with us. We’re just bus rides away, four- or five-hour bus rides and we can’t get them to play,” Stewart said at last week’s Big East football media day. “We’re flying to Auburn, we’re going to fly to LSU. It’s very difficult when you’re four hours from a neighboring state and you can’t hook up. I don’t get it.”
“I would love it (a ninth team),” Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. “I would preface that by saying we don’t want to do anything that could lessen the league or take a step backwards. But from a scheduling standpoint, it’s a challenge right now. You get a ninth team in there and now we’re just scheduling four games. Scheduling five games every year is “Â¦ I wouldn’t want to be an athletic director in this conference right now.”
If that article doesn’t get folks down in Greenville, NC, all itchy with excitement, nothing will.Â ECU, a school that has had major ambitions for decades, wants to be in a BCS conference so bad they can taste it.Â But going back to the original Robbins/NYP article, the Pirate faithful may want to consider this:
The days of considering a Memphis or a Central Florida or an association with Army and Navy are over. The Big East, which went 4-2 in bowl games last season and has won three of its last four BCS games, is thinking of itself as operating from a position of strength.
Memphis is in a much larger television market than ECU and it has many more living alumni and a larger booster club base to boot, with FedEx founder, CEO and billionaire Fred Smith being the most prominent of them.Â Not even Terry Holland could overcome those weaknesses, and the Pirates can just simmer down and get used to the idea of being a middle-sized fish in an over-sized shallow pond.Â That’s their role in C-USA, and that’s almost certainly where they will stay…no matter how hard they try to convince you otherwise.
As far as the Big East goes, it may well be worth putting one’s ear to the ground and keeping up with developments as they slowly happen concerning that conference.Â There are now too many whispers in the mainstream press going to print saying that something is up for nothing to be going on.Â With a television contract extension on the horizon, and one that will happen in a weak marketplace to boot, what the Big East does will certainly have a major effect on the ACC.