John Marinatto said the Big East would actively be strengthen itself after the defections of Pitt and Syracuse. If by strengthen itself he meant get weaker, then sure, I guess that's what happened.
I used to think the Big East could survive as a football conference, but now I'm not so sure. After Pitt and Syracuse left, there was the loss of West Virginia and also TCU. Just like that, the conference lost its two best football programs remaining.
What's followed in the weeks since is the Big East flirting with about every schoolgirl possible. There have been the standard collaboration of mid-card programs. There's also been the girl next door in Navy. Oh yeah, and the hot girl, Boise State, too. In a nutshell, the Big East has tried to dance with just about anyone without a BCS AQ partner.
The latest to turn down the conference is now BYU. This is getting flat out ugly for John Marinatto, even if BYU was unreasonable in its demands as has been suggested. The perception is that The Big East has no idea what they're doing and now the conference's next target could now be San Diego State.
There's probably no easy way to fix this, but here's what I'd do.
1. Get something in writing to keep all of the current members in the conference. Not the standard 'buyout' clause, which means nothing for most schools. Get something from each member vowing to stay in the conference assuming a certain number of teams will be added. This is one thing that appears to be hindering the Big East - current schools are hesitant because of the lack of a real plan and prospective members are scared off by current members' unwillingness to stick it out. Would you buy a car without the guarantee that all the parts would be there? Unless you're a mechanic, probably not. Why would a program like Boise State risk joining what could be a sinking ship.
"It’s like everyone standing by the pool, waiting for someone to jump in before everyone else jumps in," a source said.
2. Immediately add the programs you can get: This stuff with have a hard time believing the conference could get teams like Temple, Central Florida, and East Carolina. The good news? It sounds like this has already taken place to a degree with some Conference USA teams and that the BYU deal was holding everything else up. But if I were the Big East, I'd go all out and bring in Temple, ECU, and maybe others.
3. Offer a group invite as a second influx of member - As I mentioned, prospective members are scared off by the fact of being out there alone. The Big East needs to decide on its priorities from here on out, whether it's Boise State, San Diego State, Navy, etc., and extend a group invite. Go to each school and present your plan. Don't explain to them why you think the Big East can still be viable, tell them that it will be and show them why. There's solidarity in numbers and making an invite here or there is like throwing something against the wall and hoping it sticks.
There's still time to save the conference for football, but it's far from a guarantee.