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Rebuilding the Big East

By Russell Blair
On November 5, 2010

On Tuesday, the Big East announced that they were planning on expanding the conference in football from eight teams to 10. While this is a good first step, adding two teams to the already-bloated 16-team conference isn't the right way to go about it. I propose the Big East pull out the scalpel, trim the fat and rebuild a conference that will be a dominant force in football, basketball and the smaller sports as well.

Without further ado, I present my plan for the new Big East.

Step 1: Get rid of Notre Dame.

The Irish don't add anything to the equation for the Big East. They have solid basketball programs and a national championship women's soccer team, but their football team, the big money maker, will never join the Big East. Notre Dame football has an exclusive NBC contract worth millions of dollars and would only be losing money by joining a conference and giving up their TV rights. Furthermore, Notre Dame has a sense of prestige and would rather continue to keep their illustrious status as a Division I Independent than sink to joining the Big East. The Irish add nothing and need to be dropped.

Step 2: Drop the basketball-only schools.

The purists out there will hate this step, but if the Big East seeks to expand they need to drop the basketball-only schools. This isn't to say that schools like Villanova and Georgetown aren't good programs, they are, but if the conference wants to move toward being a dominant force in college football they can't allow partial members to cling on. The most common question asked when this proposal is brought up is: what about all the history? Well, compared to many other conferences, the Big East is only in its infancy. Yes, the conference would be losing three of its founding members, and many minor sports rivalries such as UConn men's soccer's rivalry with St. John's, but there's a way around this. Coaches should be encouraged to schedule those opponents with which they truly have a rivalry for games on a yearly basis. If Michigan and Notre Dame can continue a rivalry in separate conferences, why can't UConn and St. John's?

Furthermore, many of the basketball-only schools haven't been good in a while. Providence? Seton Hall? St. John's? None of them have done much of anything recently. I'm sorry Johnnies, but Lou Carnasecca isn't walking through that door anytime soon.

Step 3: Add four new programs, for all sports.

Now comes the hard part, who should the Big East add to its new, streamlined conference. I'm proposing the Big East shoot for a 12 member, all sport conference so a Big East football championship game is a reality. That being said, the Big East would have to add four members to achieve this. Here's the four I pick: University of Central Florida, Memphis, Eastern Carolina University and Marshall. You see, I'm a stickler for geography, and I think the Big East should strive to remain on one coast, rather than reaching across the country for some of the sexier teams out there like TCU or Utah. UCF has new facilities, a large student body and could be a natural rival with South Florida. Memphis brings a great hoops program and would bring a new market and foothold in Tennessee. ECU has already shown they can play big-time football, has cracked the AP Top 25 on numerous occasions, and has a rabid fan base and massive alumni support. Marshall is a bit of a reach, but their rivalry with West Virginia would make for some great hoops and football matchups. Also, given the quickness of their rise in FBS football – the Thundering Herd only moved up from FCS in 1997 – they have a tremendous upside.

So John Marinatto, if you're out there reading this, give me a call sometime and we can chat further. The Big East is currently the laughing stock of the college football world, but it doesn't have to be that way.


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