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Posts Tagged ‘Big East’

TCU? Really Big East?

In an effort to quell the fear that they may get their BCS card revoked, the Big East has hastily invited Texas Christian University to join it’s bulging conference.  This attempt by the Big East to maintain their football relevance reeks of desperation and threatens to further fracture a union of schools that has a rich basketball history that was mortgaged some time ago.

This is not a criticism of TCU.  They have a very respectable football program that goes all the way back to 1896.  Since Gary Patterson took over the team in 2000 they are 97-28.  But let’s be realistic about this – what happens when Patterson leaves?  It could happen as soon as the end of this season.  If Georgia or Michigan were to call and invite him to interview for the head coaching position at their schools he’d have to take the call.  And if he leaves is the Big East left with just another mediocre program struggling for national relevance?  Goodness knows they’ve already got enough of those.

So the Big East is making a very short-term play and hitching their football future to a school that has been battling for respect in a conference that is a non-automatic BCS qualifier.  Is that a move that is supposed to get Big East fans excited?

And what about basketball?  I’ve thought in the past that the Big East’s best play may be to invest in roundball.  To pursue the title as the undeniable best basketball conference in the country.  They took a nice step toward that after the ACC grabbed three of their most competitive football schools in the early 2000s.  But now they take a step in the other direction without a major pay off.  And now the basketball conference has 17 teams.  How in the world are they going to manage 17 teams?

Finally there is the little issue of the money.  When the Big Ten was exploring expansion, money was a really big issue.  They were not going to add any schools that couldn’t bring in enough money to result in a revenue gain for all the members of the conference.  Where’s the big money gain here?  There is none. 

They can trumpet the fact that TCU resides in the fifth biggest market in the United States all they want but the reality is the Horned Frogs may not even be in the top 10 when you start ranking the franchises and universities that garner the most attention in Dallas/Ft. Worth.  And ultimately their addition could lead to a net loss because of the increase in travel costs.

So there you have it, that’s my take.  The Big East and TCU got together like two drunken Las Vegas club goers who could not keep their hands off each other and dashed off to the chapel to let Elvis seal the deal for their matrimony.  Let’s hope one of them doesn’t wake up wondering how big of a mistake they made last night.

Care to disagree?  Feel free to do so by posting a comment below.

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Over the past few weeks I have documented my predictions for NCAA Mega Conference expansion in a series of phases that I posted in the order I think they will occur.  In case you missed it, here are the links:

  1. First Big Ten expansion includes three Big East programs
  2. Pac-10 grows by two
  3. Big Ten completes full expansion to 16 teams
  4. The SEC responds in a big way
  5. Two more Big 12 teams move to the Pac-10
  6. 14 feels right for the ACC

The next question may be what happens to what is left of the Big East and Big 12.  My guess is that the Big East will become a conference driven by basketball without football.  I’ve read that the Big East has already approached some Atlantic 10 teams about their willingness to join the league if some of their current members are poached.

That could potentially leave Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida in no man’s land.  Perhaps the Big 12 would try to rally around what they have left in Texas, invite  the Big East castoffs and a couple of current non-BCS schools like TCU and Central Florida in a desperate attempt to maintain their BCS status.

Another question is what happens to the BCS.  Does the new conference alignment alter it in a whole new way?  Could the four mega conferences work together to put their four champions in a four team playoff and complete eliminate the involvement of all the other programs as reader NC_Buckeye has suggested?  I could certainly see that happening.

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As the Big Ten, Pac-10, SEC and Pac-10 again have expanded their conferences, the ACC has sat back and watched.  The most important thing for the ACC at this point is that none of their current programs have been taken away by the other quickly growing conferences. 

While the ACC was the league that caused all of the tremors of expansion earlier this decade they will be the last conference to grow this time.  Initially I said that I expected that the final result of expansion would be four 16-team mega conferences.  As I’ve gone through this exercise, my thinking has changed.  The reason is that similar to what I said about the Pac-10 expansion, I don’t see four legitimate candidates available for the ACC at this point.  If the league moves more quickly, or if the Big Ten only grabs one of the Big East schools, I could see four legitimate candidates (Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia).  But I firmly believe that the Big Ten will grab two of those schools (Pittsburgh and Syracuse) and take that option away from the ACC.

So that leaves Connecticut and West Virginia.  The case for both schools is complicated. 

First, let’s look at Connecticut.  Traditionally the Huskies have had an excellent men’s basketball program, but they are currently under a great deal of scrutiny by the NCAA.  And according to SI’s Seth Davis, that is just the beginning of UConn’s issues.  Their candidacy with the ACC is certainly helped by the inclusion of the premier women’s basketball program in the nation.  Their addition would also solidify a rival for Boston College in the Northeast and bring some access to the New York City market.  Their academics (#66 ranking by the U.S. News and World Report) don’t match up with the ACC elite, but are still solidly in the range of the other schools.

The biggest challenge for West Virginia to overcome will be their academics.  They are ranked as a Tier 3 school by the U.S. News and World Report.  That means they are not good enough to be ranked among the top 133 colleges and universities in the country.  That fact will not sit well with the ACC whose lowest current ranking school is Florida St. at #102.  Otherwise they have a strong football program with a passionate fan base and a very solid basketball program.  In fact, they have a lot of depth in their athletics program as they currently stand at #15 in the Learfield Directors’ Cup standings.

Will the ACC be willing to overlook Connecticut’s NCAA violations and West Virginia’s less than ideal academic ratings?  I say yes.  I believe that the pressure to expand will be great because there is nothing saying that the Big Ten and SEC have to stop at 16 teams.  You could just as easily see them jumping up to 20.  So the ACC will react and add the Huskies and Mountaineers believing that their only way to ultimately survive is to strengthen their own ranks.

What are your thoughts?  Would Connecticut’s NCAA issues keep them from being invited to join the ACC?  Does West Virginia’s academic ranking make them a no-go?

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The biggest thing that came out of the Big Ten meetings today was the reference by conference commissioner Jim Delany to the shifting U.S. population. 

“As far as the shifting population, that is reason, by itself, enough, to look at the concept of expansion,” Delany said. “In the last 20, 30 years, there’s been a clear shift in movement into the Sun Belt. The rates of growth in the Sun Belt are four times the rates they are in the East or the Midwest.”  What does this statement that seems to have come from left field mean?  Here are four possibilities:

  1. The Big Ten is going to make a huge push for Texas.  Many folks, including me, have discussed the fact that their are two potentially huge prizes to be won in expansion, Notre Dame and Texas.  While Texas was mentioned briefly as a Big Ten target, most of the speculation is that the conference will push Notre Dame to move.  Maybe their main target is Texas.
  2. ACC schools like Maryland and Virginia may be expansion candidates.  On May 13 Tom Dienhart of Rivals tweeted that those two programs were included in the latest buzz he was hearing.  First of all, based on the ridiculous happenings in the state of Virginia during the ACC expansion earlier this decade I don’t see UVA going anywhere.  Secondly, the ACC is on the cusp of signing an impressive deal with ESPN that will significantly increase the revenue each member will receive.  A week ago this may have been a much greater possibility.  The Big Ten may grab Maryland but I’d expect it to take a lot of hard work to do so.
  3. Delany is simply firing a shot across the bow of the SEC and their commissioner Mike Slive.  It seems clear that the major battle for supremacy that awaits college football will feature the Big Ten versus the SEC.  Delany is trying to make the SEC a little less comfortable.
  4. It’s a complete smokescreen.  All of the talk about the South is simply to open up the possibilities and take some of the pressure off the Big East schools they are likely to invite along with Notre Dame.

In my mind the most likely option is the fourth one.  However, if there is any reciprocal interest from Texas (and I have to believe somebody somewhere in the Big Ten knows if there is) then the first option is a no brainer. 

Please, share your thoughts.  What other options do you see?

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I believe an NCAA mega conference expansion is inevitable.  I’ve also written that when everything shakes out I’d prefer that Syracuse become a member of the ACC.  I’ve been thinking through what I think will actually happen and now have predictions for the full mega conference expansion.  Because I think it is going to happen in phases, I am going to post it in phases.  I believe phase one will be the initial Big Ten expansion. 

As others have written, the Big Ten expansion is mostly about television markets.  Because of the Big Ten Network, universities that are featured in major televison markets stand to bring in a substantial amount of revenue for the existing programs in the conference.  The Big Ten can add a program that on its face doesn’t seem to bring a lot from a competitive standpoint, but because of the market that university operates in, can still bring in enough revenue to supplement the current annual Big Ten pay out per school of $20-22 million through new advertising and subscriptions.

The ultimate prize in the conference expansion is Notre Dame.  The huge NBC television contract and national popularity would greatly enhance revenue for any conference Notre Dame would join.  That impact would be even more substantial if the Big Ten can secure the Irish because of the Big Ten Network.  While I think Notre Dame will still resist this initial Big Ten expansion, I don’t think they’ll be able to stay away for long.  Their athletic director, Jack Swarbrick, has expressed the school’s desire to remain an independent.  However, he said in March, “You each could invent a scenario that would force our hand. It’s not hard to do.”  Swarbrick also said, “The only things that could make it happen are the sorts of radical change in the industry that would cause upheaval and impact a lot more (schools) than Notre Dame.”

To me that means that if major programs start leaving the Big East, Notre Dame will likely be forced to follow suit.  So what does the Big Ten do to force Notre Dame’s hand?

I think the Big Ten will not jump directly to 16, although they would if Notre Dame was ready to join the conference.  I think the Big Ten will likely expand to 14 programs and invite three Big East schools – Syracuse, Rutgers and Pittsburgh.  The Big Ten will add these three schools because:

  1. Each matches the academic profile of the conference.  Academic fit is extremely important to the Big Ten.
  2. They open up bigger television markets (New York, New Jersey and Pittsburgh).
  3. Their exit from the Big East will essentially cripple the conference and force each current member, especially Notre Dame, to make major decisions.

So what happens next?  Which conference will make the next move?  Look for my next post in a couple of days.

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It is now inevitable that there will be a major football-based expansion of the current power broker conferences in the NCAA, likely leading to four mega conferences.  I’ve been saying this was a natural progression since the recent ACC expansion and referenced a “massive” expansion in my post about Rutgers leaving the Big East for the Big Ten.

The Big Ten seems to be ready to make the first move, but I agree with Michael Felder at In The Bleachers who says that the ACC, SEC and Pac 10 would be wise to make their moves first.  The Big East and Big 12 should be trying to sure up their conferences by considering creative expansion as well.  The Big East has tried to take a step in that direction by hiring Paul Tagliabue.  I don’t think that is going to help.

So it appears that the conference alignment for my beloved Syracuse Orange is going to change dramatically.  If the Big Ten expands by more than one program the Orange will be heavily considered for an invitation.  Brian Bennett of ESPN’s Big East Football blog posted his Big East expansion worry-o-meter today.  He lists Syracuse as the third most likely school to get an invitation from the Big Ten behind Rutgers and Pittsburgh. 

There would certainly be positives in joining the Big Ten.  The league currently pays out $22 million to each of its members per year.  The Big Ten Network offers a lot of potential for additional revenue, especially if expansion hits major television markets.  The Big Ten should also provide an opportunity to re-ignite the football rivalry with Penn State and start new rivalries with other Midwest high profile programs.

If the Orange are not invited to join the Big Ten it is likely that they will be one of only a handful of football playing schools left in the Big East.  They should be a nice target for an ACC expansion.  Syracuse was initially invited to join the ACC in the first phase of the early 2000s expansion but was then uninvited.  Nice work John Swofford.  This time the invite would be for real. 

A major positive of joining the ACC would be the conference’s focus on basketball.  While this means there won’t be as much revenue in the mix, it does play to the strength of the sports programs at the school.  How electric would the Carrier Dome be for a late February match up against Duke or UNC?  Immediately Syracuse would take its deserved place among the blue bloods of the sport.  Another plus of ACC membership would be lacrosse.  The ACC would inarguably be the best lacrosse conference in the country.

So where would I like to see Syracuse end up?  It’s taken me a while to figure this out and that is why this post has been delayed.  I’d like to see them join the ACC.  It’s hard to pass up the money the Big Ten would bring but the ACC would be the more natural fit to me.  I like the conference’s emphasis on basketball and I think the football program would have a better chance for success.  I also think that it would be likely that UConn would be invited to join the ACC as well.  That would bring a good rival into the conference with the Orange.

On a personal note, joining the ACC would enable me to see the Orange much more often as living in Raleigh I could go to games at N.C. State, North Carolina and Duke.

So share with me Orange fans, what conference would you like to see Syracuse join?

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The first weekend of the 2010 NCAA Tournament was not a pretty one for the Big East.  Based on seeding alone, the conference should have had five teams heading to the Sweet Sixteen.  But after some monumental collapses only two will be continuing play this week.  Syracuse and West Virginia both had a pair of excellent wins to advance in the big dance.  But before we get to the positives, let’s address the negatives, or as I like to call them – the six levels of disappointment:

Georgetown Hoyas – Unbelievably Disappointing

Wow…what can you say about this one.  Georgetown got run off the court by an Ohio team that was 7-9 in the Mid-American Conference.  After the first 10 minutes the game was essentially over.  Georgetown had the sixth best scoring defense in the Big East but gave up 97 points and allowed the Bobcats to shoot 58% from the floor.  As a 3 seed the Hoyas lost by more points to a 14 seed than any other 3 seed in history.  This was basically a complete no show.  But in hindsight, maybe we shouldn’t have been so surprised.  The Hoyas had a trio of bad losses during the regular season – at home against Old Dominion and South Florida, as well as at Rutgers. 

Villanova Wildcats – Incredibly Disappointing

Maybe it was the 2 seed that the committee saw fit to give the Wildcats that blinded us.  After starting the season 20-1 Villanova sputtered to a 4-5 regular season finish.  Then they lost to Marquette in the first round of the Big East tournament.  But Villanova is a tourney team and Jay Wright is a tourney coach so they earned back faith as more college basketball fans picked them to win the South region than any other team.  Those that did, myself included, had to sweat out a first round win over Robert Morris.  They would not be able to come back against St. Mary’s, as poor shooting (less than 37% FG in both NCAA tournament games) and the inability to stop St. Mary’s big man Omar Samhan doomed them.

Louisville Cardinals – Awfully Disappointing

It wasn’t the fact that Louisville lost to California that was a huge letdown, after all they were the 8 seed and Cal the 9 seed.  It was the way they lost.  They were down 12-0 immediately and never could recover.  They barely challenged the Golden Bears.  They shot horribly from three point range (26%) and Samardo Samuels was the only starter in double figures.  Hard to believe that this is the same team that beat Syracuse twice.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish – Wastefully Disappointing

Heading into the NCAA Tournament Notre Dame was going in the opposite direction of Villanova – they had strong positive momentum.  With their backs absolutely against the wall they rallied to win their last four regular season games and then two important Big East Tournament games.  They lost by only two in the Garden to West Virginia in the Big East semis.  But their luck ran out on the day after St. Patrick’s Day as a couple of last second attempts bounced out of the basket and they lost to Old Dominion 51-50.  Don’t cry for the Irish though – Luke Harangody was spotted in the Cat’s Meow on Bourbon Street after the game.

Marquette Golden Eagles – Marginally Disappointing

After losing to a much improved Washington Huskies squad on a shot with 1.7 seconds left the Golden Eagles have nothing to be ashamed of.  The athletically-gifted Huskies are exactly the type of team that Marquette had trouble with this year.  Not to mention that Washington did go on to dominate New Mexico.  Nonetheless the season did end on a disappointing note for a team that showed a lot of heart throughout.  Some times the matchup just doesn’t work out your way.

Pittsburgh Panthers – Mildly Disappointing

Sure Pitt was the higher seed against Xavier, but they gave an excellent effort two days after dominating Oakland.  In the last 10 minutes the Panthers continued to rally but every time they closed the lead down the Musketeers would answer.  When it came down to it Pittsburgh just could not make enough shots to win.

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