That UC and Louisville played in the Big East championship game should not go
Back when Virginia Tech, Boston College and the Miami Hurricanes left the Big
East, the conference was all but declared dead for the football losses and
inviting the "non-easterners" was frowned upon by those not wanting to invite
the best of Conference USA into the executive washroom.
The reality is that it strengthened an already strong basketball conference .
The continued rivalry of UC and Louisville is as good as ever as indicated by
their presence in the grand finale at Madison Square Garden. Furthermore,
Marquette was viewed as top 25 threat all season long as they've continued their
tradition, South Florida sports the league coach of the year and DePaul won't be
any more down than any of the current Big East "also rans".
If you watched this year's tournament, the Big East games are as exciting as
ever. Other than the obvious allure of easy money, it's still a mystery to me
why Syracuse would leave the Garden and their New York fans for the Greensboro
Coliseum and the ACC. Ditto for non-factor Pitt this year.
As for West Virginia, I doubt the "Let's go Mountaineers!" cheer will be as loud
in Stillwater, Oklahoma or Lawrence, Kansas.
To all departing schools I say, "Be careful what you wish for."
In football, UC and Louisville have more than held their own with both making
BCS bowl games and representing the league as proudly as the departed. South
Florida has also made it as high as No. 2 in the top 25 and the Bulls have
beaten national powers (ask Brian Kelly).
Now, the guys that get paid to spout off think the league is down or isn't
deserving of multiple NCAA bids or shouldn't get a BCS game.
My guess is that some self-appointed expert made those same under-researched
comments years ago. Again, the loudest person isn't always the right one. Those
that have used their two ears and two eyes more than their one mouth are usually
The new entries to the Big East will eventually prove themselves. Memphis was
good under John Calipari and has a good coach in Josh Pastner. They have great
talent and Pastner was schooled under Lute Olson. I think you'll find the
"Silver Fox" won on occasion.
Temple has been good and will be again. You don't come out of the
basketball-rich Philly area without attracting talent. Houston has been an NCAA
The underlying key to success for all of these schools is a bigger league and
the fact that they represent bigger markets. Memphis, Houston, Philadelphia,
Dallas, and the Florida area are full of talent for the home and OTHER teams in
the league. Everyone benefits.
The same logic exists in football. Houston got national attention with their
offense and SMU has June Jones who also plays an offense popular with young
players. Last time I checked, there was considerable interest in Texas for
football. With the Big East involved, UC and others can now cultivate talent
from those same fields.
In Orlando, UCF lives in the same player-rich area as USF. The Bulls in Tampa
have grown because they've kept players that didn't go to Gainesville,
Tallahassee or Miami at home. If you look at most Division I rosters, (including
UC's) you'll see a boatload of players from the Sunshine State.
Memphis has been down, but they have a new coach and if they can keep players
from escaping to neighboring states, they can compete. It wasn't all that long
ago, that UC labored to beat Memphis.
It's easy to sit on a throne somewhere and declare a league dead because of
longstanding biases. It's much harder to do be open-minded and do the homework.