Before I get labeled a Big East hater, let me start out by saying that I am a Big East fan from back in the days when Miami and Boston College were members. As a Hurricane, my allegiance must follow wherever they go, so I am now an ACC fan. But that doesn’t mean I stopped being a fan of the Big East. With the USF Bulls playing here in Tampa, it’s easy to remain a fan of the conference. But reality has to take over at some point. And reality forces one to ask the question, does the Big East deserve a BCS bid? And reality tells you that no, it probably doesn’t anymore.
Several years ago when West Virginia, Louisville and USF were at the top of their game, it seemed as if the Big East was a national player. USF reached No. 2 in the polls at a point. There is still a lot of people that question if the Bulls deserved that. As a season ticket holder, I myself asked the same question. They were good. But were they THAT good? Big East football for those few years was like the basketball portion of the conference: everyone beat each other up during the regular season and the best team emerged from the battle. I think USF was deserving of a top 10 ranking then, but not No. 2. They proved that thought right by falling the very next game and finishing out of the top ten. But even at that point they deserved to be in the BCS picture. While maybe not the top team in the nation, Louisville, West Virginia and USF were Top 25 programs.
Today is a different story. USF was miserable last season. After a 4-0 start and a national ranking, the Bulls went 1-7. West Virgina, now a member of the Big 12, was 10-3, 5-2 in conference and co-champion. Louisville was only 7-6 (conference co-champ by the way), and Cincinnati was 10-3, 5-2, and also co-champion. The Mountaineers finished No. 17 while the Bearcats finished No.25. A 9-3 squad should not be part of the BCS picture. Rutgers even put together a decent looking record at 9-4 but was only 4-3 in the conference. You can’t fault the teams for coming out of a weak conference, just like you can’t fault a player for taking an owner’s money.
That doesn’t mean they’re deserving top billing, though.
If you look at the ACC, SEC, PAC 12, Big 10, and Big 12, they have top program schools that are in the hunt every year. In 2009, Cincinnati went 12-1, the only loss coming when they were blasted by the Florida Gators in the Sugar Bowl. But they made a statement that year saying the Big East deserved to be recognized as a top college football conference. But you can’t have a team have a great year every 3-5 years and still be considered a top conference.
Now it’s even worse with West Virginia gone. There is nobody left in the Big East that teams are afraid of. USF? They might be improved this season but will not be top 10 material. Rutgers? Louisville? Those two teams might benefit from playing a weak conference schedule but they are not going to scare anyone by any means. Uconn? Syracuse? Pitt? No, no and no. The Panthers and Orange are gone after this season anyway.
Some of the new teams coming into the conference are UCF, Navy, Memphis, Temple, and SMU. SEC and ACC teams will be tripping over themselves to schedule games against those teams. They don’t scare anyone. Boise State can play with anyone and is a great addition. The jury is still out on Houston (one hit wonder?), and San Diego State can go either way. The only addition that will throw a scare into opponents at this time are the Broncos.
Do you think them joining the Big East was not a calculated move? If there was no BCS bid up for grabs, do you think Boise State would have talked to the Big East? Not a chance. University administrators see an opportunity to play in a BCS conference, get the automatic bid the program deserves each season, and not have to play tougher competition — and you can not tell me playing in the Big East right now is tougher than what the Broncos have been playing for conference opponents over the last several years. It’s a brilliant move by the school and once it starts conference play, unless something drastic changes between now and then, Boise State will be your Big East champion for several years to come, or at least until the conference calls it quits.
Now with all the talk of a playoff format happening in the near future (finally!), BSU is the saving grace for the Big East. Under the terms that are being discussed, there is no way a Big East school would be in the running. They just can’t compete in recruiting with the ACC, SEC and the others. If you can’t get the players, you will not compete. TCU already screwed the Big East over. The conference better hope that BSU doesn’t do the same. How can you be considered in talks of a playoff format if you have no teams that will never compete for it?
Now this isn’t to say that this can’t change. Because it can. USF despite being the 4th of four big Florida schools, still gets good recruits. Florida is such a hotbed for talented high school football players that the kids that get skipped over by UM, UF and FSU, can still start in other top notch programs. UCF ends up with USF’s washouts but could still turn into a contender. Syracuse is now the ACC’s problem. Louisville and Rutgers can be a national contender with the right coaching staff in place. San Diego State can be a player given the right schedule. Cincinnati can be a dominating team if they continue on the path they are on right now. Boise State speaks for itself. And if Houston can keep going what they started last season, they can be a contender as well. So there can be a bright future for this conference. They say it’s always darkest right before the dawn. Well right now, it’s pretty dark in Big East football country. But if you look to the east, the sun is starting to come up.
In a few years the Big East could be a major conference again and deserving of a BCS bid and consideration in whatever playoff format is decided upon. Will they be an SEC or an ACC? Simply put, no. Can they cause problems for those conferences? Certainly, yes. But that’s in a few years. Right now they don’t deserve to have a BCS bid. OK West Virginia destroyed Clemson last year in the Orange Bowl. But the Tigers were a team that had lost 3 of their last 5 games and were clearly not the team that started the season 8-0.
Right now the Big East reminds me of the old NHL Norris Division. The division that nobody wanted to win.
None of those teams deserved to be in the post season, but someone had to go. That’s the Big East right now. Nobody deserves to get a BCS bid at the moment. But someone has to go. But the good news is that the old Norris division teams are now some of the top teams in the NHL. The Big East could have the same fate. Maybe in a few years they will once again be a contending conference and deserve a BCS bid. But they have to do it for several years running. Not just one season here and there. Maybe that will happen, But right now it’s not and they should not be allowed to represent among the best college football programs in the country.
NOTE: I wrote this article last night to prepare it for today. As I got ready to publish it today, CBSSports.com is reporting that Boise State is now reconsidering and may not join the Big East afterall. To get a conclusion of that scenario, read above again.
Ray Blanchette covers the USF Bulls for Outside The Redzone. He also covers NCAA football for the Saturday Blitz. Follow along at www.saturdayblitz.com. Blanchette is the owner of Blanchette Sports Holdings. Follow along with them at www.blanchettesh.elementfx.com or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100003521034703&sk=wall or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/BlanchettSports. JOIN US THIS WEEKEND AS WE AUCTION OFF A PAIR OF SEASON TIX, FREE PARKING FOR A YEAR, $25 OF FREE FOOD AND DRINK PER HOME GAME, AND AN AUTOGRAPHED PICTURE OF CARRIE. ALL IN THE SAME PACKAGE!