By Paul Sykes

So the Big East is looking to go to 10 teams in football. This isn’t causing nearly the stir, fear and uproar when the PAC 10 decided to pump up the membership or the Big 10 started growling about needed more members.

Why? Because the Big East is perceived by many to be a basketball conference. Has been forever … and especially so when Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College jumped to the ACC.

In an attempt to put plywood over broken windows, the commish and his pet Tagliabue have grandly announced that the worst football conference in the BCS system wants to expand. That’s like adding two more women to ABC’s The View. In the immortal words of Slim Pickens in the movie Blazing Saddles as he addresses the cowboys sitting around the campfire eating beans and…well, you know…

“Don’t ya think you’ve had enough?”

The only schools that make sense here, if they are intent on going through with this quarterback sneak on 4th and 15 are Notre Dame and Villanova. There is absolutely no need to bring in two new participants in the already jammed full basketball makeup. Sure, ‘Nova will get pushed around a few years before they get to D1 recruiting levels and Notre Dame is not going to join the gridiron party unless NBC replaces their football slot on Saturdays with reruns of Hogan’s Heroes or Law and Order.

Two things the football schools in the Big East don’t have right now, by the way. Many heroes or any type of order. You’ve got Dave Wannstadt atop the conference and most Pitt fans wish he’d go back to the NFL or get lost on a rafting trip down the Ohio. Next is Syracuse … perennial doormat. West Virginia is a parody of itself this year and if you took the rest of the five teams, you might be able to come up with a roster that could compete in the SEC. Compete, not win it… mind you.

So, who will be the last two to run of out the room and get selected to climb aboard the sinking ship? My guess is that it’ll be TCU and ‘Nova. Got a buddy in North Carolina that assures me East Carolina will be in the mix. He’s the same guy that told me to load up on Enron a few years back, too.

For sanity’s sake, don’t cause any more rifts in an already capacity-filled basketball conference by bringing in two new members. And let Notre Dame know that we’d sure like to have “Kelly’s Heroes” dump the traditional powers that they schedule each year in football and take on Louisville and West Virginia. Powers like … Tulsa? (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

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By Paul Sykes

Paul Sykes owns Paul Sykes Advertising and does contract work for other advertising and publishing firms. The proud husband of Sonja, he has a fascination with bears, bars and Cardinal sports. He's also the moderator of

25 thoughts on “Conference expansion during a down year for Big East football”
  1. Paul, this argument sounds eerily similar to the basketball school vs. football school debate. When you’re stuck with primarily a basketball reputation, you have to overcome a number of obstacles.

    The first step to overcoming it is to admit you’ve got a problem if you want national respect during the respective sports seasons. The Big East takes a lot of flack during the football season but commands immense respect during basketball.

    It hasn’t been that long, however, since U of L and West Virginia were in the top 10 football schools, remember? But in sports, it’s what have you done for me lately? Talk about self-perpetuating predictions. The media is patting itself on the back for being right now that Big East football has nosedived this season.

    The next step is to make the conference as suitable possible for the existing football schools, make it easier for them to schedule in and out of conference. Then you look around for the best possible candidates to join you.

    And that’s where the conference is now, finally making a commitment to football. The Big East has been a decent football conference in the recent past, and we don’t have to live forever being branded a basketball conference. KInd of like Time Magazine proclaiming Republicans an endangered species a couple of years ago.

    1. Two comments:
      1–Adding Villanova football (which is a foregone conclusion now) will do damage to the Big East ‘national respect’ that you seek. Even if you paired them with Notre Pretender–I mean Dame–, you’d only break even. Adding TCU or ECU with Villanova will be a net loss to any national aspirations.
      2. You read that rag, Time Magazine??

  2. Having two seperate “conferences” for basketball and football is the BIG EAST’s problem now. Getting 12-14 schools that play ALL sports is the only way to get over the hump. Football is the money maker NOT basketball. Time to make some tough decisions and if you don’t want ECU in to help bolster your national reputation in ALL sports then so be it but we would hold our own and then some….we’ve done more with less than anyone else could have done for sure.

    1. I’m with you, Bruce. ECU makes too much sense to ignore. The athletic community reveres the past and fan bases are inherently self-centered. This makes it difficult for aspiring, well-deserving universities to improve their standing in any sport. The fan bases are all pretty similar when it comes to giving respect to other schools. It’s a childlike mentality, unfortunately, and I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon. Keep fighting your cause, and when you become successful, be sure give somebody like Winston-Salem U. or Coastal Carolina a break when they want to join the big time down the road.

      1. Football drives the train financially? Maybe at ECU….Louisville has consistantly been one of the top five in basketball attendance and profitablity for years. Now with 3,000 more seats…that will continue. Not so long ago, the Cards struggled to get 20,000 to a home football game.

        Like it or not, The BIG EAST is a basketball conference. Bump it up to 12 teams…I like the idea of Notre Dame, Villanova, ECU and UCF and then we’ll talk football.

        SEC. Now that’s a football conference. Even with Kentucky and Vanderbilt in it.

        Don’t get me wrong. I like football. I played football. But the BIG EAST has a lot of rope to climb before they reach the pinnacle of being known as a football conference.

        1. Uh oh, when someone starts referring to their own team or conference as “they,” that means that team or conference is having a “bridge” or “rebuilding” season.

          Just think of how many multi-millions more we can make in football with a winning team in a 55,000-seat stadium. No contest between basketball and football when it comes to potential revenue, Paul.

  3. In figuring revenue potential, football will always be second to basketball due to two factors. 1–There are far fewer games, and 2–there is no national tournament. (Hence no NCAA playoff TV revenue) Stadium ticket revenue barely comes into the equation these days. IMHO anyway.

      1. And, what if Strong leaves next year? What if Louisville loses their last four games? I can play the ‘what if’ and ‘profitablity’ word games all day, if you want…Charlie.

        The point is this..and the reason behind the original article (which I appreciate all the feedback and comments on.)

        Expansion is coming. Who the BIG EAST decides on or who decides on the BIG EAST for football will impact the structure of the other sports in the conference. Especially basketball.

        Until the colleges that play football establish a national championship game, implement playoffs and dump this ridiculous BCS format, it’ll be like ancient times when feudal landowners controlled their territories and regions and no established rules or regulations were in place.

  4. Ok Paul I don’t disagree that basketball makes money and Louisville has a rich history, but lets look at the numbers. 60000 folks at 6 home games…tailgating merchandise: tents, flags, banners, not to mention the impact on the local economy with food, beverages, hotel stays, restaurants after the game and the visit to the student stores by alumni, do the math. Did you tailgate at the last Wednesday night Louisville basketball game? No, but I bet you did the last time ESPN came in on thursday. Marquette not relevant since 1977 in basketball, Depaul, Providence, St. Johns….you tell me. Georgetown …once in 25 years? Notre Dame…how many years has Digger been a commentator? Again, make the tough decisions to form the first power conference and add ECU, Southern Miss, UCF if you must and Villanova or you wont be having this debate next year because the Mt. West with the addition of Boise and the rumored raid of C USA will take your BCS status and you canhave the basketball conference you so desire.

  5. Guys face it… ECU will not be in the Big East. They argue about being great but when was the last time they were relevant. They don’t have good sports besides mediocre football. There are 5 or 6 schools in the Carolinas alone that are better rounded. So I say this in the nicest way. ECU will never join the Big East. All the best luck to you all in c-USA. It is a decent league

    1. Relevant? It seems they are as relevant as any existing BE team. They beat ranked VT and WVU teams a couple of years ago, have won their conference championship 2 years in a row, and seem to go bowling frequently. They beat Boise St in a bowl game in the last three years and narrowly lost to Arkansas last year due to 5 missed chip shot field goals. Ready for the SEC? No………but neither is any team in the BE. I believe they would compete right out of the box.
      Ecu does not have a basketball program worth mentioning, but the baseball team is ranked every year. The issue is what they bring to the table, and the argument is no TV market. While Greenville is a small town, ECU OWNS eastern NC from I-95 east…they have a “region” if you will as their market…and the people from eastern NC are rabid about the school.

  6. Okay well I am not questioning their fan base. It seems great. I am thinking about conference image. The Big East already looks bad. Add ECU and Villanova and the image is worse. Best of luck to you all but I don’t see it happening. If we put UCF in I would be happier because they could build into a great program and I have a condo in Orlando

  7. Frankly, what has ND done for us? All we do is make their basketball team relevant. I’d say tell them to either go all in, or GTFO (thats get the France Out) of our basketball, so we can add a team that wants to contribute across all levels. Its no sweat off my brow not seeing them play, they’ve never lived up to their post season hype (just like their football team.) Heck I think the best thing ND basketball has done for me was beat kentucky in the NIT. joy. All they do is take from us in our other sports and then hold their nose up to us in football (and then raid our coaches.) I say out with ND, in with either ECU or TCU, and bump up ‘Nova. not like we haven’t seen any bottom dwellers pop up and surprise anyone this year or anything.

  8. I have felt for years that Notre Dame is a little bit pregnant. It is a disgrace to the BE that they are allowed to be members in every sport except one. I will have no respect for the leadership of the conference until Notre Dame is made to get all the way in or all the way out.

  9. My understanding is they are looking at football only option- to leave basketball intact

  10. The last thing the Big East needs is any more basketball members — the schedule makes little enough sense the way things are now. What would make the most sense to me is adding Notre Dame and Villanova, since they already compete in the Big East in most other sports.

  11. Does anyone remember when UConn joined D1 football and the jokes about the competition they would bring to the Big East? Well, after a couple of years they did start winning and have made a couple of runs into the Top 25. Nova would be the same situation. There football track record as a FCS school is solid and they have a clue about finding talent (Brian Westbrook for one). Yes, it would be ugly for a couple of years for them, but it would pay off in the long run for the conference’s sake. That is what needs to happen here.

    As for Notre Dame, there football heritage would be the ONE thing that would give this conference short and long term credibility. I am not a Notre Dame fan at all but adding Notre Dame is a necessity that will cost the conference some money up front as the conference would need to structure any TV deal to favor Notre Dame.

    Having 12 teams for the football side of things is the second most important necessity which would produce the scenario for a conference championship. Personally, Central Florida makes the most sense in terms of location and recruiting benefits to other Big East schools. I am not sure it is the best situation in the long run.

    Army and Navy make the most sense in terms of geography and giving Notre Dame one of the natural rivals. The Big East needs more rivalries like Pitt and West Virginia. This way the Big East would have more moneymaking games (ND vs. Navy, Army vs. Navy, Pitt vs. WVa against the only one they have going right now).

    To recap, add Notre Dame, Nova, Army and Navy and the conference goes up to 12 teams, adds more rivalries, bumps up the TV revenues, and adds to the conference with little negatives. True it would not be a super conference in football. But it would not require the Big East to add them as basketball schools.

    Again, not perfect but an improvement.

  12. All the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th tier players in Florida who don’t sigh with either the gators, noles or canes,have been waiting for UCF to join a BCS conference.Most of the players in Florida that the BIG 3 don’t sigh would love to stay in state and play for UCF, but only if UCF is in a BCS conference.My point to all of this is Louisville and coach Strong will struggle to recruit GOOD players from Florida, because recruits will say, why go all the way to Louisville when we have BCS UCF right in our back yard.So it might be in Louisville best interest, for UCF not to join the BIG EAST.

      1. Great question hothot,UCF is a good school,and their football program is pretty good.Having UCF,and USF in the BIG EAST will give FLORIDA recruits just another in-state BCS option to choose from. Louisville as you know gets a lot of their players from Florida, and if UCF does join the BIG EAST it might hurt our recruiting in Florida, I’m not saying it will ,but it might. Now i know that’s not a valid reason for Louisville not to want UCF in the BIG EAST, but i had to throw the recruiting issues out there.

  13. So, with the Big East announcement this week to expand to 10 teams, I have been thinking that unless they go big, they should not expand at all as it would be a pointless effort adding less desirable teams and teams would still be picked off sooner of later. If you will allow me to speculate for a few moments on how the Big East should approach this expansion process. Think Big!

    In my opinion (and yes… just humor me here), they need to score some big time programs. First, start by inviting Notre Dame and TCU. I know… ND… no way, well, just listen to my proposal first before you say no way. Second, don’t stop at 10 teams, invite some old friends back into the mold like Boston College and Virginia Tech. (They could easily start to complete again in the Big East rather than flounder in the ACC.) In addition, sure, if Villanova wants to join, fine, but add one more team for good measure and invite Maryland. I know the whole idea is totally crazy, but just follow me out here. So, for football you have 14 teams and basketball you would have 20 teams. Crazy… right? Okay, keep following me here.

    For football, you have 2 divisions (North/South or East/West… whatever) that can be split however you like… I don’t want to argue that here. You only make Notre Dame play the other 6 teams in their division (North or West… depending on how set up) so they are able to continue their independence. Their record for the Big East Championship Game would be based off of the in division record only. Plus, I am sure NBC would love to continue to have ND each week and that is fine, but add the rest of the Big East to the mix and play games on NBC, MSNBC, USA and any other NBC family of channels. This would be huge exposure for the new Big East to have their own channel like the SEC with CBS and they could have exclusive rights to Big East Basketball too. This would benefit NBC ratings on Saturdays as well with the new teams.

    For Basketball, it would be a massive 20 team mega conference, but before you say no way, listen to my explanation. Split the conference into 2 ten team divisions (North/South or East/West) and then split the team divisions into 2 five time subdivisions (North1&2/South1&2 or East1&2/West1&2). Each team in the subdivision plays each other twice (home and home – 8 games) and plays the teams in the other subdivision in the same division (in know confusing) once (5 games). With 13 games under your belt then you can play 5 other teams from the other division to ensure teams have cross playing time. It equates to 18 conference games.

    Like I said… it is all a dream world, but how cool would that be.

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