Frankly, I don't think this move will help all that much. But the Big East has reached out to former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue
and brought him in as a special advisor to the league.
Fine. I don't know, just not sure what he'll bring. But this at least shows that they're maybe, just maybe, considering how to survive if the league loses three teams.
Now to backtrack a bit...
Okay, I give up.
I really didn't want to mention the recent speculation that things are heating up with Big Ten expansion. It just seems to me that people are jumping the gun on this thing. I covered it earlier when the rumors first came to light. But now it's the same thing all over again - I would just feel like I'm beating a dead horse. Heck, they haven't even decided how many teams they want to add to the league. How can any rational person decide if Pitt is in or out at this point?
That said, I want to take a look at how the Big East can survive if it lost three teams.
If Pitt is included, then the subject is moot. Plus, if the Big East lost a big player like West Virginia, it would make it harder harder to survive. So for the sake of argument, let's look at the Big East's options should they try to stay afloat with, say, a three-team purge of Syracuse, Rutgers, and someone like UCONN.
I've said it before, but I think the Big East needs to remain proactive in this. Yes, I know the argument exists that they conference can't really strengthen itself with the likes of Central Florida, etc. But nonetheless, I'm not convinced a three-team purge has to mean the end of the Big East. It would depend on the teams lost.
All three of those teams above mean very little in the landscape of football. True, you don't want to lose those teams because of the markets they're in. But strictly in terms of quality football programs, the Big East could sustain the loss of those members. The basketball side would be lessened a bit, but still would obviously be plenty deep with the likes of Pitt, Nova, WVU, Georgetown, etc.
Here would be nine options for the Big East as I see them, other than trying to get Notre Dame, which is a pipe dream:
1. Villanova - The Big East would need Nova to move its football program to D-I. UCONN successfully pulled the move off from I-AA to I-A and proved it can be done. And it brings in the Philadelphia market for football.
2. Boston College - Yes they're hated, but if the conference were at stake, I have a hard time believing this call wouldn't be placed. It seems as if they never really fit with the ACC and a move back to the Big East would still place them in a premier basketball league and the Big East at this point is, in my opinion, a step up in terms of football.
3. Memphis - Memphis has had four winning seasons in the past eight years. Syracuse? Zero. Syracuse has much larger advantages in terms of market and tradition, but replacing Syracuse football with Memphis football wouldn't be a drop off in terms of play on the field. And their basketball team would at least help replace the Orange's strong program.
4. UCF - Another team that has four winning seasons in their past eight. They would give the Big East more recognition in Florida, which would mean more talent.
5. Temple - Another Big East defect. After years of futility, Temple has shown signs of life the past two seasons, winning 15 games. I don't think they'd come in and even go .500 in the Big East right away, but again, would they be much worse than the Cuse? They're in a large market, which would be a plus and I think the Big East could do worse. Again, there are sure to be bad feelings after Temple was forced out, but a move from the MAC would be a step up for Temple.
6. East Carolina - Really a team on the rise. After a non-existent football program, has had four straight winning seasons and nine in each of the past two. I'm convinced they could play in the Big East as they've got wins over West Virginia, Boise State, and Virginia Tech in the past three years alone.
7. Troy - Has averaged just over 8 wins for the past four seasons (33 total). Obviously not a large market, but would give the Big East another team in the south, which would help expand their recruiting reach into a state, Alabama, with some talent.
8. Marshall - This was a team that showed some promise in the early 2000s, even posting an 11-win season in 2002. They've since fallen off the map, but this could make some sense. They would create a natural in-state rival with WVU and if in the Big East, could likely recruit some better players in the Western PA/West Virginia area that Pitt and WVU wouldn't consider.
9. Ohio University - Has had two nine win seasons in the past four years and would give the Big East more of a presence in the state of Ohio. Plus, could create a rivalry with Cincinnati.
Frankly, I think Pitt will come out of this just fine anyway - whether that means going to the Big Ten, staying in the Big East, moving to the ACC or doing something else. They're a quality academic school that would add a solid market, excellent basketball program, and very good football program. So, I can't see them being left out in the cold - someone would want them.