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In certain circles of culture, what Pittsburgh and Syracuse did last week, defecting from their long-standing conference affiliation, would result in some form of retribution. But, alas, this is a “civilized” society, where the victims are left to pick up the pieces and get on with their lives. And, it’s football culture, where excuses are worthless.

A lot of dust has settled in the past week, but for Big East commissioner John Marinatto and the remaining members of the conference, there are still more questions than answers. So what is current outlook for its teams and the conference at large?

 

Cincinnati

The Bearcats are still new kids on the block in the Big East, having joined the conference half a dozen years ago from Conference USA. The program won the conference championship in 2008 and 2009, but lost head coach Brian Kelly to Notre Dame as a result. The Bearcats are on the western perimeter of the conference: seemingly in disadvantageous geography, because the program has not been rumored among teams sought for realignment.

 

Connecticut

The commissioner called an emergency meeting of remaining Big East football schools last Monday to confirm them all in unity. Presidents and athletic directors of all these schools attended … except Connecticut. New president Susan Herbst, a Duke graduate and a former administrator in the Georgia university system, which includes Georgia Tech, refused to pledge allegiance to the conference that put UConn on the map. Connecticut has acted as though an ACC invitation is forthcoming, but the wait may end in disappointment.

 

Louisville

Like Cincinnati, Louisville came to the Big East from Conference USA, and it found success in its short tenure by winning the conference football championship in 2006. It also has one of the premiere basketball programs in the country, which likely would dispose the school to try to keep the Big East in tact for the benefits of its reputation in hoops.

 

Rutgers

The State University of New Jersey must have taken pride in being rumored among teams to be added to the Big 10 previously. Its proximity to the New York media market is its offering to potential suitors. The only problem with their presentation is that, despite the huge number of viewers in that DMA, New York sports fans don’t watch a lot of Rutgers football. It, too, hopes the ACC comes knocking. The Big 10 passed last year.



South Florida

The Bulls are off to the best start in the conference this season, including an impressive win at Notre Dame. USF is the third team in the triumvirate that moved Conference USA to the Big East in 2006. The school’s football program is still very young, but it has developed substantially under head coach Skip Holtz and is one of two current Big East teams that enjoy a place in the AP Top 25. Its BCS opportunity may be short lived if the conference doesn’t expand.

 

Texas Christian

The Horned Frogs are in either the best or worst of situations in the conference. Having pledged to become a full member next year, it expected to capitalize on the Big East’s AQ BCS status. Now TCU finds itself wondering if the Big East will be there at its expected arrival time in 2012. Because of its geography TCU may find an opportunity with the Big XII, or it could forego the AQ opportunity of the Big East or Big XII and stay on with its present affiliation, the Mountain West Conference.

 

West Virginia

The Mountaineers have a long history of winning football games. The program has 694 all-time wins but has yet to win a national championship. It was a charter member of the Big East football program in 1991 and has won the conference championship six times. The Backyard Brawl, its annual game against Pitt, has been one of the best annual rivalries in college football. To ad insult to injury, the Mountaineers were been rejected for membership by both the ACC and SEC this week.

 

Big East

The conference survived the high-profile defections of Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami in 2003, but that was a different period. Conferences were not in chaos.

The Big East’s unusual distinction of having several basketball-only programs complicates the outlook. Football programs will want more depth in their ranks, but the conference’s roots are in its basketball schools, and historically successful hoops programs such as Georgetown, Villanova and St. John’s will suffer without the affiliation of the prestigious conference.

Though Big East football enjoys BCS AQ status for the present, the horizon is not looking bright. The losses sustained initially suggested further exits among football schools. The question now is: Where would they go?

The Pac-12 has closed its doors to expansion in the short-term. The Big 12 has replaced its commissioner and appears to be focused on finding stability. The SEC expects to welcome Texas A&M, but has been silent, except to deny rumors, about further expansion. The ACC is playing coy, waiting to cherry pick if the Big East fails and the Big 10 has been a spectator of all the attention and turmoil in the other conferences, probably enjoying a quiet chuckle at their expense. The BCS conferences, it seems, are no longer open for expansion.

It’s been rumored that the military academies have been invited as football only members of the Big East. Though a novel idea with the potential to claim of the most storied rivalry in collegiate football history – Army vs. Navy – as an annual conference matchup, will it bring more money to the Big East? Rutgers schedules both these teams yearly. Has television coveted the chance to broadcast those games? Do Army and Navy alumni travel, helping to fill opponents’ stadiums?

If the Big East is going to add, Temple now seems the desirable option for basketball, football and overall geography. Beyond that the best alternative seems to come again from Conference USA. Central Florida is a natural rival for USF. SMU and Houston could help solidify TCU’s move to the Big East. Marshall may be a desirable geographical addition for West Virginia, Cincinnati and Louisville.

To be sure, none of these programs tremendously enhance the conference’s football profile. They can provide for something more valuable in the short term however: Survival.

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