Big East Conference athletic directors are in Newport for the football media events but don’t expect any decisions on conference expansion. They defer to the college presidents on such matters.

That doesn’t prevent people from rehashing the complexities of expansion and the pros and cons of expansion candidates, primarily the University of Central Florida and East Carolina University.

Jim Weber, over at Lost Letterman, goes on the record in favor of UCF, citing as one factor the presence of George O’Leary as head coach:

“He’s literally built the UCF program from the ground up and, between the fact he’s about to turn 65 and the stigma still attached to his name from lying on his resume, this is almost certainly his final head coaching job. While he might not be on the UCF sidelines a decade from now, I do believe he will have built the program to a point it can land another quality coach when he retires.”

Weber also suggests that the school’s location in Orlando, Fla., a hotbed for college football fanaticism, as a major reason UCF is the logical choice, suggesting that the leftover recruits from Florida, Florida State and Miami (no mention of South Florida) would be enough to ensure that UCF would be competitive in the Big East.

Weber’s arguments are not convincing.

O’Leary does not quite fit the image of a coach destined to lead any football program to greatness. Having been turned away from Notre Dame in 2001 after padding his resume, O’Leary wound up at UCF in 2004. He’s currently in the midst of a wrongful death lawsuit and his recruitment of Damarcus Smith from Louisville was highly controversial. And let’s face it, at the age of 65, his career as a college football coach may be limited. Howard Schnellenberger he is not.

Plus, if the best argument for UCF is that it’s the fourth or fifth best college football program in Florida, that’s not much of a recommendation. UCF is already having problems filling its 45,000-seat stadium and Florida fans aren’t going to be switching their allegiances anytime soon.

On the other hand, East Carolina is filling its 50,000-seat stadium on a regular basis and could easily fill a 60,000-seat stadium with a Big East affiliation. Apparently this area of North Carolina is almost more fanatical about football than the rest of the state is about basketball.

The argument against ECU is that it’s all about the size of the TV market. That and the lack of a metropolitan market and other big time attractions are the only things that are keeping the Big East from embracing East Carolina. The conference is afraid to take the risk, and that’s unfortunate for ECU and the Big East.

Follow Card Game on Twitter @uoflcardgame

Share this

By Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

40 thoughts on “Big East conference expansion merry-go-round”
  1. ECU is the best bet among the non-AQs. They are totally underrated. The Big East should have taken them before USF as well.

    The Big East might want to consider that Kansas and K-state might want to join as well (given the drama of the BigXII). And if Mizzou isn’t offered by anyone, they might be interested as well.

    1. ECU is definitely the Big East’s best pick. Their entire community would embrace this move and from a “metropolitan” point of view, they will bring viewers from DC south and are a HUGE draw in the Raleigh-Durham area! They also play regularly in Charlotte and would bring more attention in this thriving city as well!

  2. No metropolitan market for T.V in greenville n.c??? Greenville n.c is an hour away from raleigh n.c (one of the fastest growing metro’s area’s in the nation) home to over 2 million+ people. It is also an hour away from the tidewater region in V.A home to another 2 million+ residents. You bring up the whole t.v market deal. Look at area’s like tucaloosa alabama, oxford mississippi. ECU’s t.v market is much larger than those area’s. UNC, DUKE and state are crazy about basketball. ECU is crazy about football. The big east should be lucky to have such a great canidate for expansion. I see in the next ten years ECU expanding their stadium to 75,000 and joining the SEC once it looks for expansion.

  3. Big East is a sinking ship anyway. They should expand to 12 or more while they have the chance. They put so much of the decision based on tv markets without consideration of the fan base. Don’t they realize that in the large tv markets they are competing against other better known schools or pro teams. The fans won’t watch it on tv if they are not willing to go to the games!! If they plant their seeds in Greenville, NC, It will take over the entire state of NC and overflow into Va and SC. Not to mention competition against the ACC in the heart of their recruiting base after Florida. It is really a no brainer!!! Greenville is a great place to start a late season vacation too….swing by for a game on the weekend, then head to the OBX, Morehead City, Wrightsville Beach or Myrtle Beach for the week. And if you are lucky, you could catch a second game on your way back from vacation. Everyone wants tv market…not an area that is only an hour away from a major airport and a 2 hour drive to some of the best beaches in the world?!?!?! Plant the seeds and it will grow….no fertilizer needed!!!

  4. TV market? Are we all still using rabbit ears?
    You can drive to Raleigh (50 minutes) faster than you can drive across Raleigh.
    Heck I am watching the Raleigh station (WRAL) this morning and they announced when ECU practice begins (friday @ 3) and they will be covering it.

  5. How about Blacksburg, VA? No tv market at all, but a winning, exciting football team put cheeks in seats and people everywhere where watching on tv. The point is, if ECU wins, the stadium will stay full and people across the nation will want to watch on tv. VT has benefited from a coach who’s been there forever, which kept the team winning. If Ruffin MvNeil wins, and stays, ECU will have a product any conference should be tickled to add, as long as those making the choice look at ratings aand regional fanaticism over tv market size.

  6. It is abundently clear and logical to add ECU. Despite the drop-off in all other sports besides football, ECU makes sense for their pigskin fan base, successes in the sport and location.

    Remember, though…we’re talking about the BIG EAST here. Such logical concusions do not come easy to the tightly controlled base of decision makers in Providence and Villanova.

    Could we put it to a voice vote?

    1. The only drop off has historically been in basketball. We’re adding facilities to improve that soon. Baseball & Olympic sports would come in immediately compteting for BE titles.

    2. Drop off in other sports? Don’t throw a blanket over all of the programs. ECU is pretty strong in baseball, softball and track and field to name a few. Very few schools have teams that are upper echelon across the board.

    3. Well there were these 3 polls done by ESPN and CBS Sports and ECU won those polls by about 50% of the votes as to whom would folks like to see in the Big East beating UCF,Houston,’Nova and Temple yet I guess the B.E. movers and shakers did not see the polls

  7. T.V. Markets? That’s really just your local News programs as all other programs are national network. If you wre to draw a linefrom the Va. state line down to the S.C. state line and let’s call that line Interstate 95. Now look eastward and you can see that ECU is the only Div.1 school playing football and you will also see that there are many cities and towns where ECU is known, plus ECU is known statewide and many towns and cities in Tidewater Va. and Lowland S.C. ECU will bring three states not just a Theme park city where they don’t fill a smaller stadium. PLUS ECU has a history with most of the Big East schools and our fans do travel so fans at home and fans on the road.

  8. Maybe the SEC will kick out half their teams since there are so many SEC schools are in small tv markets – they can then add schools from large markets such as Temple, San Diego State and Rice. Maybe switch-out trade UAB for Alabama since Birmingham dwarfs Tuscaloosa. I am not sure why they haven’t thought of this already. . .or could it be that its because the “large tv market argument” is so stupid. People will watch good college football games regardless of where the teams are located. The Virginia Techs, Clemsons, Alabamas, etc. have proven this already.

  9. If only the Big East Brass was intelligent as these comments. They will pick UCF, for the silly Orlando Market and to use as a tune up game for the current members. I fear this is why they will also add Nova for market and tune up game ability.

  10. As a conference, it’s difficult to gauge what the BE is looking for, as they never state any official position and seem to be in a very reactive mode. The TV market argument just doesn’t hold any water. I can recall when Cincinnati was still in C-USA, and Nippert Stadium was no larger than a high school football field. East Carolina dominated this program, both in attendance and wins. The BCS essentially created the haves and the have nots. At this point, ECU has been working on the things that it can control: facilities, program quality, academics, and wins. Among all non-AQ schools, we have the second largest attendance record in the entire Nation (only second to BYU). I hope the BE will give the Pirates a chance, as this is a golden opportunity to cut into recruiting and exposure in the Carolinas, which is dominated by the ACC.

  11. Just for laughs:If TV markets and large cities mean anything N.C.state would own Raleigh,Duke will own the Durham market and UNC has no market as Chapel Hill has no TV stations.HaHa Yes I know that UNC and Duke are about 5 miles from the other but if you don’t have a hometown tv station how do you have a market

  12. Some people fail to realize one fact. That fact is that ECU is the only Non BCS school to have every olympic sport qualify for the NCAAs. There are only a handful of teams to have done that and we are one of them. Baseball is very solid and play in a stadium that can hold up to 5000-6000 people and we rank in the top 30 in baseball attendance. We won our 2nd consecutive Softball Tournament Championship in Softball and have a brand new Softball Stadium, Track and field has a brand new state of the art track complex and we had athletes qualify for nations. Womens and Mens Golf qualified for NCAA tournament.Swimming and Diving is consistently solid and our coach has been here over 20 years. Womens basketball right now is in better shape and our new coach plays an exciting brand of basketball. We just pulled in transfers from Virginia Tech, Virginia,and Clemson. Mens basketball finally broke through with a winning record so its coming to life. Fundraising is in the final stretch to help fund the building of a 15 million dollar basketball practice facility. Alot of money has been spent to improve facilities especially the olympic sports complex. Its an exciting time to be a pirate and I hope the Big East can look past the negatives and focus more on the positives.

  13. The argument against ECU is that it’s all about the size of the TV market. That and the lack of a metropolitan market and other big time attractions are the only things that are keeping the Big East from embracing East Carolina. The conference is afraid to take the risk, and that’s unfortunate for ECU and the Big East.

    Man… just think if the SEC felt this way, they should just close up the shop. ECU is in a larger market than most of all of the SEC schools! ECU may not be in as large of a market as UCF, but it draws more viewers than UCF by evidence of ECU and UCF TV bowl rankings.

  14. The Big East as we know it will end this year. There will be a split in football and basketball. the 9 football schools will add three of the following U of Houston, UCF, Memphis,East Carolina or Temple. Now remember this is for a all sports conference. So I think Temple and Houston are locks. Then it will be one of three and i do believe it will be East Carolina.

    I also think one of the new all sports stations of CBS or NBC (Versus will be re branded as NBC Sports) will sign both the new football league and the new basketball league as well as the catholic basketball league. They will get a boat load of money and be there center piece. Sounds familiar does it not…can you say espn

  15. A team my only be provided full membership in the BEast if it receives approval of 80% of all of the BEast members. The “basketball only” schools will not vote to admit ECU, UCF, Houston or any of the other commonly mentioned schools.

    The BEast is a dysfunctional league because the “football schools” and the “basketball only” schools each need each other.

    If you doubt that statement then please explain why the football schools have not already divorced the basketball schools. The answer is that Syracuse University and Yukon understand that St. John’s, G’town, Villanova, Notre Dame and others are more important to in basketball than UCF would be in football and basketball.

    Strange as it may seem the “basketball only” schools in the BEast hold the leverage in this matter.

    The Big East Football conference should be called the “Bridesmaid’s Conference” because each ot the football schools has been passed over by the league(s) they would prefer to be a member of. Recall that Syracuse University had its bags packed for the ACC in 1994 only to lose the invite to VaTeck. rutgers, SU, Yukon, and pittsburgh each campaigned for Big 10 membership. Likewise SU, west virginia, rutgers, Yukon and USF would jump at an invite to the ACC. Not one of the Big East Football schools in in the BEast as their first choice.

    If the BEast really wants to upgrade the quality of its football conference then it would expel bottom feeder rutgers. Take a moment to look at the lightweight out of conference teams which rutgers has played over the past 7 seasons. Pitiful.

  16. We cant control the TV market but look at our tv ratings which should be a more telling stat than market rating. Our appeal isnt just located in greenville. It far exceeds it with alums throughout NC,VA,MD and throughout the country. Its nothing new that we have had to fight the perception of our market but consider something that isnt considered and that is our market isnt fairly represented. What I mean by that is that areas close too Greenville are represented in the Raleigh market and some northern NC counties count for VA. If our market was truly represented it would me much larger. ESPN didnt care about our lack of market when they gave us our own contract when we were independent.

  17. Otis…. you’re an idiot if you think the split doesn’t make sense for both parties. The FCS schools are leaching on the football money, more so than ever once the new TV deal is in place. UConn, Syracuse, and WVU alone would make it one of the top basketball conferences still. The Catholic schools can pair with Butler/Xavier and make it off fine as a ten league conference. The Notre Dames, DePauls, and Marquesttes have been an albatross on the Big East and need to be given the boot, along with the rest of them. And what the hell does evicting Rutgers do? They deliver the NY market unlike your crappy UConn alumni do. UConn as been garbage in football moreso than Rutgers. If anything, send them packing with the Catholic schools.

  18. This is a joke to be even considered amongst UCF and Houston. ECU clearly has the best football program in the conference. We actually have a legit stadium (we dont have to rent out pro stadiums) and sell out every game 50,000+. We fit more of the mold of an SEC program than a big east program. the only reason we would need the big east is just to be a stepping stone conference so we could get into bigger conferences like the ACC or SEC for football.

  19. Yeah ECU is going nowhere… the Athletic directors have already hinted that they want the Orlando market, but even that is a last resort. The reason why small markets are so successful if the SEC is….

    1) Big time tradition (Bama, Auburn, LSU)
    2) They are college towns that live and breathe college football.

    In the North east college sports is like the fourth or fifth priority. People don’t care about it. The Alumni and fan base aren’t big enough. Adding ECU will hardly change peoples views on college football up here.

    So that’s that. Insiders have made it known that they are targeting Boston College and Maryland to get some revenge on the ACC. I think that makes sense. BC is getting killed in the recruiting department with that horrible travel on every road game they play in the conference. Maryland already has built in rivalries with Big East schools. Then they will add UCF or promote Villanova. They aren’t expanding to bring in more C-USA teams or crappy markets. Those schools don’t matter to the Big East or any other AQ conference.

    1. So you went to UCF? Do you really think that a Fla. school that can’t fill their 45,000 staduim even when they give free tickets away will have more eyes watching them if they were in the Big East? Fla.St.,Fla., Miami,Fla. rule with S.Fla.just a ride down the road plus the young upcoming D.1 schools growing nearby,not that much of a market is it. ECU fills their staduim every game. Has their games televise by a local station if the game is not picked up by some of cable stations. And YES folks watch those at home and ECU is still soldout. Can’t say that about some the other schools’who’s names are being thrown around, Can you

      1. I dont understand how students getting in free to the games constitutes you saying that UCF gives away free tickets. If your not a student, you have to pay. If you are a student, you have to hope your name gets pulled in a lottery system (which is about a 75% chance).

        1. Nobody said the tickets went to the students just that they gave tickets to groups that make the staduim looks fuller then the sales show. It’s something some C-USA schools do for their TV games (BUT NOT AT ECU). Those groups may be the Boys & Girls Club or some other clubs like the Scouts. Sometimes a school may sale the tickets at discount gives the effect of lots of fans

    2. Maryland and BC? The BE has a better chance of getting Notre Dame to join. BC is a remote possibility. Maryland in a non-starter.

  20. Hey I’m all for expanding to 12… but you have to do it the right way. Geography is still a factor here. TCU was pretty much out of whack in the MWC as it made sense to add the For-Worth area. Now I’d go for Boston and Philli. The ACC is pretty much going nowhere, but they still have brands. ECU doesn’t remotely add the Raleigh market the way those other ACC programs do. It’s pretty much the bastard son or the red-headed step child. Nobody wants to be a part of that. But… if we can’t poach those ACC schools, then I think they will add UCF, ECU, and maybe Houston. At the very least there are new markets there. On the other hand, it just makes the revenue split a whole lot thinner. Plus, the division split would be a nightmare…

    Where would ECU go in that? They are in no man’s land relative to the rest. Texas and FLA would have two teams each so you could split that or put those schools in the same division. That is balanced. Cinci, Lousville pretty much cancel each other. Who do you pair ECU with? No one will want to travel there because there is no partner to balance out that market. Add Maryland on the other hand, and there is more likely hood, but it’s a pipe dream still.

    1. Well ECU plays one C-USA that is 3800 miles away not to say anything about the other Texas schools. ECU’s closest C-USA member is in W.Va. Is that a balance partnership? Really do you think that the state third largest school will not have a following in Raleigh or westward? Do you not know that ECU gets their players out of the states of Va.,S.C.,and Fla. Ga. as N.C. If 50,000 fans can come to Greenville,N.C. to see the PIRATES play then there is no such thing as a No Man’s Land,just someone that knows nothing about the school,the state,or the fans

  21. You guys just don’t get it. It has nothing to do with attendance or support or stadium size. It’s about TV ratings. And Raliegh is just not the market to go after at this point. People will be wrapped up in UNC and Maryland football, or SEC football. Yeah it would certainly be an upgrade for ECU, but it does nothing for the Big East other than making the pie smaller for everyone. Adding three more teams and that is pretty much guaranteed. A Championship game adds maybe 25 million…. split that 12 ways (even though the split wouldn’t be equal since the participants get most of the money) and that’s a measly 2 million more per school. It’s not worth it.

    1. No “Fats” I do get it, but you do not know the fan base at ECU you do not see how adding ECU and two others will bring more money and and Tv rating to the B.E. but you do count money real nice

  22. I’ll eat crow when it happens. Right now ECu is like the fourth or fifth priority behind the ACC/Big 12, UCF, and hell even Navy schools. Until then, keep praying someone picks them up.

  23. Don’tknow if ECU will be picked but it would be nice and if not we just keep playing C-USA and anyone who will play us.But we can dream right? But please tell me why you think BC or Maryland would leave the ACC? I know why you think the big 12 schools may jump, I can see that. But at this time the ACC haves a better payout for their teams. yes that may change but why did BC jump the first time and why would they go back?

  24. BC won’t come you are right… but Marianatto is still going to make a play at them. Right now, adding 3 C-USA teams or any non-AQ teams is not going to increase their TV deal by any significant amount. I don’t care how many people watch ECU on their local networks. We are talking about nationally televised Big East games on ESPN or NBC in prime time. Those networks aren’t shelling out any more for the UCF’s and ECU’s of the world. I think the next step will be to outbid the unbalanced revenue that the Big 12 North teams are getting, (assuming in all likelyhood Maryland, BC tell the Big East to **** off), and then you have a solid Big East Wesr Division with six decent football programs.

    Big East West

    Kansas, K-State, Louisville, Cinci, TCU, Missouri, Depaul Marquette, ND, and maybe Iowa State (If they pity them which is doubtful)

    In basketball, you’d play 4-5 teams in your division twice on a rotating basis, then you’d round out the rest of your conference schedule with the rest of your division and the other division.

    Football is pretty self explanatory, only you’d rotate the Championship games in St. Louis (every 8 years), New Meadowlands (every four years), Arrowhead (every 8 years), Cowboys Stadium (every 8 years), Heinz field (every 8 years), Raymond James (every 8 years), Paul Brown (8 years). Pro Stadiums will give it more national appeal than campus sites, unlike the Pac-12 system since those school stadiums are pretty much 80,000 plus and readily sell out to begin with.

    Rounding out the rest….

    Pac-16, Add Baylor, Texas Tech, OU, OSU. (2 Texas teams and two Oklahoma teams do the division split would work with what they already have)

    SEC (13) Adds Texas A&M. The MAC plays with 13 so it’s not like it is unprecedented. Iowa State a likely destination for the MAC if the Big East invite never comes.

    Texas goes independent and maybe join the Big 10 once the current deal expires (long ways to go). Dream scenario, Big 10 lands Notre Dame and Texas to once again distance themselves from the PAC-16. Or they add 3 Big East schools to get the New York market, along with Notre Dame.

    So that is the most likely scenario for the next decade or so. Thanks for all the feedback everyone, whether you agree or not. When it all comes to fruition, remember you heard it here first. Preferably, I don’t want massive re-alignment on that scale for the rest of my life so I am hoping it doesn’t happen to that extent.

  25. UCF is a huge school absolutely massive and the football program isn’t that old either yet they put so much money into their athletics its crazy i don’t see them staying in C- USA much longer if FSU or Clemson leave the ACC they could be a very strong candidate to fill that spot or perhaps the ACC will take teams from the Big East like pitt or WVU however i think UCF would be a perfect fit for the Big East they already beat out USF in recruits and they consistently win their conference.

Comments are closed.