Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Medium East

The Big East Basketball Conference is too big. The Big East Football Conference is too small. In fact, the Basketball Conference is twice the size of the Football counterpart. These extreme values underscore both reputations. In football, the Big East is barely recognized since eight teams can only receive a limited amount of national coverage as opposed to larger more reputable conferences. While the elite Big East Basketball teams are highly respected, teams residing in the boiler room have become the laughing stock of prominent conferences. So how about a compromise: a single Big East with 12 uniform members and two divisions.

Eight Teams is not enough for a BCS Conference. Using simple probability without factoring in talent, recruiting, and reputation (all aspects the Big East still lag behind in), the odds of having a National Championship Contender with so few teams are quite small. If you factor in talent, recruiting, and reputation, then the Big East falls even further behind; this was demonstrated when not even a single team was ranked in the Preseason Top 25. Without starting the season as a ranked team, the feat of becoming a National Championship Contender is practically unattainable. By adding independent team Notre Dame, Division I FCS teams Georgetown and Villanova, and by reviving the historic Marquette program, the Big East can become a name synonymous with Basketball and Football.

The main advantage of expanding the Football Division would be to gain Notre Dame. The History, the Media Coverage, the Talent Base, and the elevated recruiting competition would vastly improve the reputation of the Big East. There are no cons of adding Notre Dame. The only dilemma would be to have the school on-board with the Big East's philosophy. A simple ultimatum should do the trick: Leave the Basketball Conference or Join the Football Conference. The Big East is at the helm of college basketball; there is no better conference that Notre Dame could join let alone a conference simply superior to it. Notre Dame would be taking an immediate step downward. By choosing the latter, Notre Dame would not have the flexibility of schedule it maintains now; however, the strains would not be too severe. The Fighting Irish already play Pittsburgh and Connecticut. With a two division system the Fighting Irish would have to play the five teams in its division plus two or three more non-divisional, conference opponents. In order to lure Notre Dame, the Big East could offer a scheduling preference in which the Fighting Irish would select which non-divisional opponents they are interested in playing and on what dates, so that the school can maintain its current rivalries without a strain. Currently, Notre Dame plays a 12 game schedule with Navy, USC, MSU, Michigan, Stanford, Washington, Purdue, and Boston College as staple opponents. With a maximum obligation of eight regular season games, Notre Dame is free to play four of these opponents. With the rigor and flexibility of a preferred Big East schedule, Notre Dame has nothing to lose.

To fill two of the remaining three spots in the expanded Big East, inviting Georgetown and Villanova to become FBS teams would be an intriguing offer. These nationally respected Division I schools could easily transition from FCS to FBS. With the notability of being a FBS school in the Big East, G'town and Nova would reel in prized recruits eager to play immediately since these two schools would need a quick talent surge to be instantly competitive on the field. After two seasons of being relatively weak teams, the Hoyas and the Wildcats would be well assimilated; especially since college football has shifted to being more of a strategic based game rather than a talent based game.

The final void in the Big East Football Conference will be difficult since the remaining Basketball Conference teams do not have a current varsity football programs: DePaul, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, and St. John's. Of these Marquette has the most prominent football history. "Marquette football posted several very impressive seasons in the 1920s and 1930s including undefeated seasons in 1922, 1923, and 1930. From 1922 to 1923 Marquette held a 17–0–1 record and outscored its opponents 374–15. The 1930 Marquette squad had seven games in which it held the opposition scoreless and held a 155–7 scoring margin. From 1920 to 1936 Marquette held a 90–32–6 record. In 1937 the 20th ranked Marquette Golden Avalanche had a 7–1 regular season record and appeared in the first Cotton Bowl Classic against TCU" (Wikipedia, 2009). Marquette would need to build proper facilities and acquire enough player for a team.

In the last decade, the Universities of Minnesota, Akron, Central Florida, Connecticut, and Louisville have built new stadiums:
- Minnesota built a $288.5 million stadium with a capacity of 50,000 (the school paid a maximum of 1/2 of the budget after state funding and donations).
- Akron built a $61.6 million stadium with a capacity of 30,000 (the school paid a maximum of 3/4 of the budget after state funding and donations).
- Central Florida built a $55 million stadium with a capacity of 45,000 (the school paid a maximum of 7/11 of the budget after state funding and donations).
- Connecticut built a $91.2 million stadium with a capacity of 40,000 (state funding and donations values were unavailable).
- Louisville built a $63 million stadium with a capacity of 42,000 (the school paid a maximum of 5/9 of the budget after state funding and donations).

Additionally, the University of Connecticut reported a football revenue of approximately $5,000,000 from ticket, parking, and convenience sales. If a team in Connecticut can make $5 million than a school in Wisconsin - where football is absolutely revered - can do marvels. With a sponsorship and decent size stadium (nothing extravagant), Marquette's reinvestment into a football program will pay for itself; plus, the school will receive tons of media coverage for being an FBS school (especially one that is attempting to build itself from the ground up).

With twelve teams set for football, the Big East could create two divisions based on location. The first division would be the Northeast - composed of Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Villanova, Syracuse, Rutgers, and Georgetown. The other division would be the South and West - composed of Louisville, South Florida, Marquette, West Virginia, Notre Dame, and Cincinnati. Big East Football would become the model conference for organization and change (and one of the most formidable conferences in football).

Moreover, the Big East would then turn to Basketball where it would look to winnow the Conference down to twelve teams. Based on my breakdown of Big East Football, DePaul, Providence, Seton Hall, and St. John's would be left out of future plans. Even though DePaul was recently added to the Big East, the school has failed to compete on the level of a Big East team. DePaul has gone 21-50 against in conference since joining the Big East in 2005, and the Blue Demons failed to win a single in conference regular season game last year. The last three are on the list are on similar grounds. Providence, Seton Hall, and St. John's have been Big East members since the inauguration of the conference. All three schools have had postseason success; however, without current football programs or a dominant basketball programs that are reeling in nationally prized recruits, the Friars, the Pirates, and the Red Storm will be packing their bags in search of new conference. Fortunately, the Atlantic 10 and the America East Conference are risings leagues in the Northeast that will provide competition up to par with these four ostracized schools.

Information was gathered via Rivals.com, Wikipedia.org, and the schools' respective websites.

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