Conference realignment and the future

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This is probably not what the UC administration wants to think about, but what happens if the Big East's nightmare comes true, and the Big Ten pilfers three of its teams? Say, the Big Ten takes Syracuse, Pitt and Rutgers and leaves the Big East with exactly five football-playing schools? What then?


Can UC football survive and keep playing at the highest levels? It's a fair question, especially as conference realignment continues to get major play in national newspapers, magazines and web sites.


Here's the latest offering from's Andy Staples: To go or not to go? That's the question for expansion candidates.


Some of Staples' points from the column (and some of mine in response):


-Rutgers could go, and it'd be a marriage that benefits both parties. Rutgers would enter one of the best football conferences in the land, and the Big Ten could infiltrate the Metro New York market, which would mean more potential cable subscribers for the Big Ten Network. (Yet Rutgers has been so unimpressive through most of the last century, this wouldn't make the Big Ten football brand any better. Plus, how many Rutgers fans live in the metro NYC area? That area just doesn't strike me a college football town.)


-In order to grab Notre Dame - which I'm sure Big East adminstrators and fans would prefer, because that likely would be enough to satiate the Big Ten hunger for expansion - the Big Ten still would need to blow up the Big East to force Notre Dame's hand and give the Golden Dome no other option but to join. (I just don't see Notre Dame letting go of its independence. Yes, it'd make more money by joining the Big Ten for football, but I'm not sure its hubris is worth an additional $10 million.)


-Every Big East team would take the Big Ten's invitation and leave the Big East and join the Big Ten. (I believe this is true. And you couldn't really blame whichever Big East team the Big Ten approaches).


So, what now. Well, one reader, Gary, has some ideas and some complaints. For one, he doesn't understand why the Big East isn't being proactive by trying to expand itself. Gary would like to see a 16-team, two-division conference that plays a championship game every year at Yankee Stadium. Some of the teams he would bring into the field: Central Florida, Temple, Army and some old Conference USA foes. As Gary writes, "If the BE Conf. waits to see what is going to happen we are going to get picked apart or end up a basketball only conference. This may not be the perfect scenario, but we need to do something to survive as a football conference."


 (You have to ask yourself this: is it better to add mid-level teams from a mid-major conference to your conference, or is it better just to pack up the Big East tent and let everybody fend for themselves? Probably the former, but I'm not sure a team filled with mostly C-USA teams would have a BCS affiliation anyway. Of course, as Gary points out, it's not necessarily about the quality of the teams. It's about the TV markets.)


Another idea: if the Big Ten expands by picking up three Big East teams, the five schools that are left (probably UC, West Virginia, Louisville, South Florida, and Pitt or UConn) should approach the Big 12 for membership. At least, this way, UC could remain in a BCS conference.


(Joining another conference would be paramount for UC. If the Big 12 loses some teams to the Big Ten - say, Missouri and Nebraska - or if Colorado leaves for the Pac-10, this could be a reality. Or, if the ACC wants to expand and improve its conference, it could approach West Virginia, UC, South Florida and Louisville. But what happens if Texas bolts for the SEC? How much less attractive would the Big 12 look at that point?)


Gary also sent an e-mail to Big East commissioner John Marinatto that suggests merging the Big East with the rest of the ACC and making it a 16-team super conference. This assumes the ACC loses Clemson and/or Georgia Tech to the SEC. This way, Gary writes, the Big East still could remain a legit conference, albeit as a basketball-only league.


(I wonder if, logistically, this would be impossible to do. But I do know this. If the Big Ten follows through and pilfers a huge chunk of the Big East, Marinatto had better have some answers. If not, the Big East will collapse. And then all bets are off for UC.)

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