John Marinatto, up to his old tricks again, issued a statement after the recent meeting of all of the universities in New York saying the conference is committed to recruiting some of the top BCS schools. We all know that's media fodder, so there's no sense in pointing out the ridiculousness of that kind of talk.
The more this plays out, the more it's looking like the regular suspects will be in play.Andrea Adelson of ESPN puts together her list of expansion candidates (keep reading for my top three) and other than the service academies, which are kind of a new twist, it's basically the same tired conglomeration of programs we've seen before. We can all recite the list in our sleep by now - East Carolina, Memphis, Temple, et al.
The problem for the Big East, though, isn't necessarily that they've had an interest in these schools - it's that they have an interest now. I openly campaigned for the Big East to add a handful of these teams over a year ago (and several times since then). But that was when Pitt and Syracuse were still members.
Look, let's not kid ourselves - Pitt's and Syracuse's football programs haven't been incredible. But Pitt's been on the rise, averaging nine wins over the past three seasons and Syracuse has looked better as well. But now that those programs are gone, to try to add some of the teams mentioned above takes the conference back a step or two. The problem is that this may be the only option left. I mean, after all, who's left?
No one in their right mind would leave the Pac-12, B1G, ACC, or SEC to join the Big East. If Oklahoma stays in the Big 12 and commits to rebuilding, it's hard to imagine mass excitement over leaving to join a conference that's just as unstable and where the teams are much farther away.
There simply aren't a lot of viable options for the conference right now. So ruling out the non-AQ programs, who would be the Big East's best bet?
1. Temple: Unlike the first time around, the Owls could actually compete in the Big East now. And by moving to an AQ conference, that would help with recruiting (assuming, you know, that you can convince recruits that the conference will still be together in a few years). They're also in Philly and a true east coast team. And by the way, their basketball program is pretty good, too.
2. East Carolina: I'm convinced this is somewhat of a sleeping giant. Not in the sense that they'd be a TCU or anything, but I think that, like Louisville or South Florida, once they got in the Big East they are one of the few programs out there that could take the next step and be an 8- or 9-win team in the conference.
3. Houston: As Adelson points out, this is a huge TV market. It also gives the conference more of a presence out west, which would help with recruiting in the massive talent pool we like to call Texas. Plus, if expansion ever hits heavy again, the Big East would have an easier time getting midwestern schools if they already have a good presence there with TCU and Houston.