Losing TCU was a blow to the conference (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Stumbled upon an interesting article this week about how the Big East needs to reinvent itself. That part of the article is correct, but the way to go about it? That's where I disagree.
If you read the article, part of it is obviously over the top on purpose. But I even have an issue with the general premises of some of the ideas, so let's take a look at them (I'm paraphrasing a bit).
1. Pick a Fight (the general idea is that the Big East should compare themselves to the ACC rather than try to compete with the other four conferences)
I've repeatedly said that the two conferences are closer than many people like to admit. The problem with the Big East, though, is that they've been picked apart via expansion and are now more vulnerable than ever. The issue isn't so much with the conference's inability to produce good teams; rather, it's how viable can the league be in the future. Sorry, but the idea of trying to be No. 5 really does little for the Big East in my mind.
2. Forget ESPN in TV negotiations
While that sounds nice because of the network's apparent 'disrespect' to the Big East, the conference is simply in no real position to barter or to try to pick and choose their destination. They need to find the best TV partner that will pay the most money and even if that's not ESPN, they need as many companies involved in the bidding process as possible.
3. Go for Entertainment
This is really more like "Go for entertainment, ignore the actual on-field product." Well, okay. Anyone who watched the WWE's XFL can tell you how well focusing on the non-football aspect of, you know, football games, works. Miking up coaches and such may be good for a boost in ratings for a few weeks, but after a while, no one would care.
4. Leverage Locations
Ah yes, the thing the Big East can hang its hat on - the fact that they are in some huge markets. That's undeniably true. The problem, though, is that those markets have so much going for them in terms of professional sports that no one cares all that much about midcard football programs. Ever been to Philly? One of the largest cities on the east coast, right? How many people do you see flocking to Temple games or rocking Villanova football jerseys? Exactly. The locations definitely count for something and will surely be a big point the Big East brings up in negotiating its TV deals. But it's probably a bit overhyped in my opinion.
5. Beat somebody
On the surface (and I'll get to this in a second), the writer sounds like he's made a great point. But then he delves into the uncomfortable position of saying a financial reward should be given to programs that beat a top team. This isn't even really worth addressing.
But getting back to that, he's half right. Fans of the Big East won't want to hear it, but the only way to save the league's rep is good old-fashioned hard work and building winning programs. The Big East can survive. But to keep schools from leaving, the conference needs to improve its football reputation. And to do that, they'll need to produce regular, winning programs.
Here's the thing, though. What they really need is for a few teams to win year in and year out. Having a ton of parity is a horrible thing for the conference in my mind. Quick, what's the most dominant Big East program you can think of right now? Probably Cincinnati, but who really considers them a national power?
The Big East needs to give fans around the country teams three, or even four, teams to identify with...teams that they consider strong football schools when they hear their names and that can regularly win nine games a year. They have that with Boise State and almost had it with TCU. If/once that happens, the conference will have an easier time trying to sell itself nationally.