Something Is Going On In The Big East…But What?

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.  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.


Lenn Robbins, New York Post:  Maryland and BC to the Big East?

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?  Perhaps not.  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.  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.  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.  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?   I can’t say that either would budge.  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.  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?  Despite its new affiliation with the SEC, even ESPN would cover that.  After all, they cover other “sports” like poker.  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

Chris Elsberry, Connecticiut Post: Big East Coaches Plead For Ninth League Member

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 “¦ 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.  ECU, a school that has had major ambitions for decades, wants to be in a BCS conference so bad they can taste it.  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.  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.  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.  There are now too many whispers in the mainstream press going to print saying that something is up for nothing to be going on.  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.


53 Responses to Something Is Going On In The Big East…But What?

  1. TheCOWDOG 08/11/2009 at 11:44 AM #

    Yow has gone on record, ” Not interested ”

    B.C. has said much the same, though I could actually see that happening.

    Despite what Robbins said about CFU, I’ve heard they are very much in the mix. ECU and Buffalo, too.

    Here’s something to hypothesize…what if BC makes a return? Who does Johnny court to keep his play-off alive?

  2. zahadum 08/11/2009 at 12:09 PM #

    You’re right about the TV market, alumni, etc. for Memphis. But ECU actually has about an 18% larger student body than Memphis.

  3. Trout 08/11/2009 at 12:15 PM #

    I hope BC would strongly consider going back to the Big East. I dont think it will happen, but I feel it would be better for the ACC (and maybe BC, although I don’t know).

    I think ECU is a STRONG player for Big East admission IF they cant get a BC or other major conference team to join. I see a scenario where they may join as a football only member, and then the Big East would see if they want to split the football and non-football schools (then ECU would be a full member of the football school conference), or remain a 16 team conference (then ECU would remain a football only member).

    Agree with Cowdog, if BC left, where does the ACC go? The logical choice would be a current BE member: Pitt, UCONN or WVU or an emerging UCF or USF.

  4. TheCOWDOG 08/11/2009 at 12:30 PM #

    See Trout, there ya have it. Pitt,UConn,WVU or USF would then leave Big East with 8 again, right back where they are.

  5. Trout 08/11/2009 at 12:33 PM #

    What is the relationship like between UCF and USF? Would USF support UCF as a possible Big East member?

    UCF (Orlando) is only 1 hour from USF (Tampa). With proper scheduling, all teams except football could travel to USF and UCF and play both schools within days, possibly saving money in travel. I also hear the concept of a “travel partner,” although not sure what that really means.

  6. Trout 08/11/2009 at 12:35 PM #

    Others may disagree, but I’d trade BC for Pitt, UConn or WVU…..doesnt help the Big East, but I think it would help the ACC.

  7. BJD95 08/11/2009 at 12:52 PM #

    I don’t see BC leaving. That said, I would like adding Syracuse, if they still want in. After that, probably an emerging program like UCF is the best bet.

  8. Alpha Wolf 08/11/2009 at 12:56 PM #

    If it were at all possible, I would want to let the BE have BC back, and grab Penn State out of the Big Ten to fill their slot. The rivalry potential is enormous, especially for the Virginia schools and Maryland. They would also bring serious football cred. If I recall correctly, Penn State once was interested in the ACC, but who-ever was commish at the time as well as the current membership didn’t go for it.

    I still think the Big East is drooling for Notre Dame, but you or I have a better chance of getting a date with Maigan Fox than the BE or ACC does of getting Notre Dame as full members. Yes, ND has some BE affiliation, but they have the special clauses in the BCS and they have their own national network television contract, so file that under “ain’t gonna happen.”

    Really, if ND was going to join a conference fully, the Big Ten would be the most logical choice from a marketing and geographical standpoint.

  9. MP 08/11/2009 at 12:56 PM #

    I totally agree with BC moving on, never liked them joining in the first place. WVU seems like a natural fit, although it would benefit them more than it would the ACC. Maybe the Blue Hens can bump up to FCS – nothing says “Atlantic Coast” like Delaware! I do wish there were a good DelMarVa area team to add – it seems that the ACC would benefit from having another team in the DC area. But who…?

    Just read AW comment – Yes Yes Yes to Penn State.

  10. Trout 08/11/2009 at 12:57 PM #

    ^ I think large, public universities are the best option. Currently, the ACC (4) has more private schools than the SEC (1), Big 12 (1) and Big 10 (1) do, combined.

    I too think Penn State would be a great fit for the ACC.

  11. choppack1 08/11/2009 at 1:08 PM #

    I’m in the minority here – but I actually like the excuse to travel to BC every other year (although a trip isn’t likely this year dammit!)

    That said, I don’t see BC chomping at the bit to leave. They aren’t a horrid fit w/ the ACC – their brethren the “U” – has fans that may be even more fickle than they are.

    As for Penn State – I don’t think they would want to leave the Big 10. They have natural, respected rivals like Ohio State and Michigan in the sport that really matters – football. In basketball, they’ve started to make strides that, quite frankly, I don’t think they’d be able to make even in the current post-expansion ACC.

    The ship for Penn State sailed a while ago. They’ve got their dancing partner now – and I just don’t see a logical reason for them to leave.

    As for the superconference – good gracious – our conference leaders can barely manage what they have now…I can’t imagine adding 8 more teams to the mix.

  12. choppack1 08/11/2009 at 1:11 PM #

    As for ECU – I think they are a logical choice for football expansion. They bring a more passionate fanbase than Memphis…but w/ Memphis’ urban appeal and natural rivalry w/ Louisville, I can see them getting the nod if only is chosen.

    I do think that if they want to go 12 – ECU and UCF are the next logical candidates. (Also, keep an eye on Florida International – they could be that 12th if the BE is really looking to bastardize itself and go from coast to coast.)

  13. Alpha Wolf 08/11/2009 at 1:20 PM #

    All other factors aside, from what I have picked up in the three or four dozen articles I have read on this is that the BE wants to streamline itself and eventually narrow the conference to full members.

    As for ECU, what drove ACC expansion? TV, TV, and TV. That’s the tail that wags the dog in college sports and the wellspring of most of its money. Greenville is in the 103rd market in the US, and has to split regional loyalty with the Big Four…in other words, it is not a slam dunk that they would even dominate their region, especially when it came to basketball. Heck, they are a smaller market than places like Cedar Rapids, Iowa and Huntsville, Alabama. Memphis, on the other hand, is the 44th DMA, slightly bigger than is the Triad area at 46. (Raleigh is 29th.) Additionally, Memphis has huge basketball cred and is a nationally recognized name as a result. So they win the branding argument hands down.


    Please, passion aside, how do the numbers really work in ECU’s favor — a team that is 4th fiddle — at best — in its own state in one sport, and easily 5th, 6th or even worse when it comes to the other revenue sport and exists in a relatively tiny TV market? Compared to UCF even (20th market) they don’t stand a chance.

  14. burnbarn 08/11/2009 at 1:27 PM #

    wasn’t there some noise about Georgia to the ACC a few years back?

  15. waxhaw 08/11/2009 at 1:36 PM #

    A twenty team football conference wouldn’t work for a couple of reasons.

    1) They’d have to split one automatic BCS bid and one conference title game. Both of these are major revenue sources for football. As it stands now, those same teams have two automatic BCS bids and on conference title game to split.

    2) The tv money wouldn’t necesarily be bigger. It might be the same. It might even be less. Right now, the ACC game of the week could go head to head with the Big East game of the week and occupy two slots and two times the ad dollars. In a 20 team conference, you’d supposedly have great matchups at all time slots but you probably wouldn’t want your marquee games going head to head on different channels. I just don’t see this being more profitable when it’s split 20 ways.

    3) The divisions would be a joke and have no sense of rivalry. See Big East basketball. I can’t even name all the teams in the Big East for basketball and the whole one conference for basketball and one for football is confusing.

    4) ACC basketball is and always will be the daddy when it comes to revenue. The reason the ACC makes so much is the basketball is that basketball is so profitable. Why split that with 8 more teams?

  16. buttPACKer 08/11/2009 at 1:37 PM #

    I’m personally 110% behind trying to snag Penn State. . . . They are a perfect fit with us. A school like UCF of SF just doesn’t have the academic cred to go along with their athletics. . . . If you think about it, the ACC (and perhaps the big 10) are really second only to the Ivy league in academics. . . The PAC10 has a few diamonds, but that’s it. PSU would complement us completely!

    So fellas, let’s stage a small coup de tat, and take them!!

  17. Broccoman 08/11/2009 at 1:44 PM #

    I wouldn’t mind to see BC leave, then have the ACC add ECU.

    I think that would be an upgrade, even as much as we look down on ECU.

    People in Boston just don’t watch college sports.

    Memphis or Penn State would definintely be better choices. I wouldn’t mind poaching South Carolina from the SEC, but I know that ain’t happening.

    ECU joining the big east would raise their profile, and wouldn’t make playing them as bad as it is now.

  18. Alpha Wolf 08/11/2009 at 1:49 PM #

    “I wouldn’t mind to see BC leave, then have the ACC add ECU.

    I think that would be an upgrade, even as much as we look down on ECU.”

    You might be right, but hell would freeze over before the non-NC schools would ever allow another NC school to join the ACC. There has been years of whining about the Big Four running the ACC show as it is.

    “I wouldn’t mind poaching South Carolina from the SEC, but I know that ain’t happening.”

    There are still very long institutional memories amongst the ACC founding members that would never, ever, ever allow them to vote in favor of SoCar re-joining the ACC.

  19. JimValvano 08/11/2009 at 1:50 PM #

    I’ve never been a fan of Boston College to the ACC. I wish B.C. would go ahead and leave for the Big East.

    As far as replacements go…

    South Carolina would be a natural fit

    East Carolina…while not a big market nationally would draw more interest from Big 4 fans when they play if they were a member of our conference, but does NC have the talent base to afford letting ECU become THAT relevant? Still, not a bad choice…and in all likelihood they would eventually beat another ACC school in basketball if they got more chances.

    West Virginia would be an awesome fit, but geographically the conference IS called the Atlantic COAST Conference. Last I checked…WV didn’t have a coast.

    Pennsylvania doesn’t have a coast either…plus they are a little far north for me, but Penn State would be a good fit just like West Virginia. However, I think I’d take the Mountaineers over the Nittany Lions (all things considered).

    Georgia…yeah right.

  20. Trout 08/11/2009 at 2:32 PM #
  21. Dr. BadgerPack 08/11/2009 at 2:43 PM #

    Memphis football has at least been heard of in the last few years as well– DeAngelo Williams got them a lot of exposure (and rightfully so).

    As for ECU, if they joined the ACC at least, I suppose, people couldn’t complain about traveling there for games anymore as it would be mandatory. Kind of like taxes. Which suck.

  22. bradleyb123 08/11/2009 at 2:55 PM #

    It would be great to unload BC. They never have fit well in the ACC.

    But if we had to lose Maryland in order to dump BC, I’d be all for that. It would kinda suck to lose one of the founding members of the ACC like that, but I’ve never really liked Maryland much anyway.

  23. choppack1 08/11/2009 at 3:04 PM #

    Alpha – the TVs # don’t work, but frankly, the Big East is probably desperate – that is if they can’t get any ACC members to defect or Notre Dame or Penn State – and I really don’t see any of those teams leaving to join the monstrosity that is the Big East. So, IMHO, ECU has a shot because the big east needs 3 or 4 football schools west of the Missippi – and they fit that bill.

  24. TheCOWDOG 08/11/2009 at 3:09 PM #

    Whoooooa Boy! Like ’em or not, losing Maryland would be damn near catastrophic.

    No Maryland in the ACC? Unthinkable.

    Since I started the replacement theory, my take would be Syracuse, leaving the Big East to then add CFU or Memphis.

    Chop my man, ND and PSU are already part of the monstrosity.

    For those too young to remember, Syracuse had a long running home and home with both State and Terps.

  25. daughtry 08/11/2009 at 3:33 PM #

    As an independent, Paterno-led PSU teams played ACC opponents 73 time while playing Big 10 opponents 15 times.

    Penn State is a natural fit in the Big East because of its long time rivalries against West Virginia and Pitt. As for the Big10, PSU has NO natural rivalry in the Big 10. There was an attempt to manufacture a rivalry with Michigan State, but nobody cared about it. And, no OSU or Michigan fan admits to being a big rival with PSU. They have each other. It is kind of like NC State basketball (UNC-Duke). The OSU-Michigan rivalry dominates those schools, and no other compares.

    ACC: 73 games and 9 schools
    – Maryland: 24
    – Boston College: 18
    – NC State: 14
    – Miami: 9
    – FSU: 2
    – Georgia Tech: 2
    – Virginia: 2
    – Clemson: 1
    – Wake Forest: 1
    – UNC: 0
    – Duke: 0
    – Virginia Tech: 0

    Big 10: 15 games and 5 schools
    – Iowa: 8
    – Ohio State: 4
    – Michigan St: 1
    – Illinois: 1
    – Wisconsin: 1
    – Michigan: 0
    – Indiana: 0
    – Minnesota: 0
    – Northwestern: 0

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