The Big Ten Conference seems hellbent on creating chaos among college football conferences whether it’s good for the game or not. Not that the macho mentalities care anything about what happens to anyone else in this “Me First” generation of collegiate athletics.

The buzz is that the Big Ten has its eyes on Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers as expansion candidates, none of which mesh with the image of existing members. But it seems more fashionable and easier to go after Big East schools rather than challenge older, more stable conferences, television or not.

University of Louisville fans, reenergized with a new coach and an expanded stadium, keep waiting on Big East officials to come up with some ideas on the future. So far, however, conference officials have kept their visions to themselves.

Football must be first and foremost among the priorities for U of L in future conference considerations, whether be in the Big East or whatever is left over if a split occurs. It is football, after all, that is drives college athletics, forcing the realignments.

Definitely go after these programs:

East Carolina football stadium (Click to enlarge)
  • East Carolina — Great football tradition in a beautiful stadium that seats 43,000 and is currently being expanded to 50,000.  ECU fans are fanatical about the football program, last season averaging close to 42,000 per game. Their fans travel well, too, and Louisville is within a reasonable driving distance.
  • Central Florida — Lots of football talent to draw from in a football-crazy state. UCF averaged 38,078 per game last season in a 45,000-seat stadium. The stadium was designed to expand to 65,000 seats. The school is already thinking about adding 10,000 seats within the next decade. Membership in the Big East would hasten the expansion. A natural rivalry with South Florida.
  • Memphis — A decades-old rivalry for U of L, and always will be. Memphis loves its university. All they need is a decent conference to begin investing in improvements in its football facilities. Memphis was competitive with Louisville, even during the Bobby Petrino years, and deserves an opportunity to join the BCS club.

The new alignment would still need at least one more school to remedy the conference football scheduling program, and that’s where it gets tough. Assuming geographical proximity and travel are not problematic, the choice would come from one these schools:

  • TCU — Texas Christian is a solid football school, attracting 38,100 fans per game last season in a 46,000-seat stadium. They have exceeded 50,000 on a couple of occasions.
  • Southern Mississippi — Another good football school and a good rivalry for the University of Louisville. Southern Miss averaged 30,100 per game last season. Put them in a BCS setting, and the program averages at least 10,000 to 15,000 per game.

None of these candidates fit the traditional power house profiles but they are respectable programs deserving of opportunities to improve their stature in the world of college football.

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By Charlie Springer

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

35 thoughts on “End Of Big East Inertia Is Near”
  1. What on earth is the Big Ten thinking, going to 16 teams? The high muckety-mucks need only look at the Big East to see what a headache basketball scheduling is, and it will take the football teams three years to play every conference opponent. Only in terms of financial greed does this make sense.

    In terms of where the BE should lok for replacements, I agree absolutely with ECU, UCF and Memphis, and would favor USM over TCU.

  2. Check that — assuming two eight-team divisions and nine conference games, it would take FOUR years to play everyone in the conference. And what about the seasons where you have only three in-division home games? Ridiculous.

  3. The buzz is that the Big Ten has its eyes on Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers as expansion candidates, none of which mesh with the image of existing members.

    How do you figure that these schools don’t “mesh?” They are all large public universities with big research arms and are members of the prestigious American Association of Universities–just like every member of the Big Ten. Not to mention that geographically they would either already exist in a Big Ten state (Pitt) or a state that is contiguous with the current Big Ten footprint.

    This sounds like sour grapes. Let me guess, while the aforementioned schools don’t “mesh” with the Big Ten, UL is a natural fit for the Big East due to its long and storied history in the conference for the past… er, half decade?

    1. The American Association of Universities is an artificial and superficial conglomeration of institutions, with arbitrary standards that have nothing to do with football, and little relevance to academic standards.


        Say what you will (and your statements are very debatable), but you’ll never see UL, Cincinnati, West Virginia (and 95% SEC) affiliated with schools like Harvard, Yale, and Cal-Berkeley. Whatever you think of the AAU, the members of the Big East about to be left out in the cold aren’t in the same league as Big Ten academically… and that’s while they’ll be left out athletically as well.

            1. 05spartan, it’s well known inside and outside academia to take those rankings with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, the strength of the Big East membership has been to invite dynamic universities in large metropolitan and urban areas. In that respect, Pitt and Rutgers share far more in common with the Big East than the Big Ten. Syracuse doesn’t fit that characterization quite as evenly, but I question that admission into a Super Big Ten Conference would be the best decision for its mighty football program. What do you think Charlie?

              1. I think you hit the nail on the head, Mr. Black. Funny how universities are always insisting on equality and fairness but they are among the worst offenders when it comes to academic and financial snobbery.

              2. I disagree re: fit. Rutgers is a northern flagship state university with AAU membership and a large research budget. This has Big Ten written all over it. Pitt may not be *the* state university of Penn., but has a similar profile otherwise. And let’s be honest–Pittsburgh, just over the Ohio border, is more Midwest than east coast. If the Big East is a better fit for these schools, then I guess you better tell me what makes them “fit” there better, other than past athletic affiliation.

                Also, Minneapolis, Ann Arbor, and Columbus aren’t urban areas? Better inform the hundreds of thousands of residents who think they’ve been living in large cities all along.

                Lastly, what do you mean by “dynamic” here? And just how does this dynamism manifest itself in ways different from Big Ten universities? I think that’s a rather ambiguous term that I’ve heard schools in the MAC use when comparing themselves academically with the Big Ten. Does dynamism refer to low tier admissions standards? I.E. they serve a dynamic range of applicants?

                Sorry to sound like such a snob–as a Michigan State fan living amongst Michigan fans all my life, I understand how this is coming across. I really just think schools like Pitt, Rutgers, and Syracuse actually fit better in the Big Ten than whatever profile you’re using for the ever-changing Big East. To suggest out of hand that these large public universities with strong academic profiles don’t “mesh” is absurd. If the author had stated that these schools “were not historic rivals,” I wouldn’t have even commented here.

                And we can argue all day long, but the mutual interest between the Big Ten and these institutions would seem to prove my point.

                1. I don’t have access to the numbers but I’m pretty sure Louisville has a sizable research budget as well. Are you aware of U of L’s involvement in the first heart and hand transplants? Plenty of counter arguments to be made. I just don’t see Pittsburgh, Rutgers or Syracuse fitting the Big Ten template, certainly not in football, and I am not alone. Plenty of love to go around when there are dollars at stake no doubt.

  4. Looking at the possible changes thru the eyes of a college women’s basketball fan..I would implore the Big Ten to consider taking UConn as well or as a replacemnet option and giving the rest of the teams a shot at winning the title.If nothing else, it would spell the end of the annual Women’s Big East tournament being held in Hartford every year.

    ECU, UCF and Memphis add nothing to the strength of Big East women’s hoops. Of course, women’s basketball is hardly on the mind of the Big East athletic directors as they try to chart these potentially rough waters ahead.

    Would hate to lose Syracuse and Rutgers. Both have strong women’s hoops programs and Pittsburgh usually finishes .500 or better in the conference.

  5. I think we have to go to 12 in football to survie. This creates huge problems for the Big East. Here’s the 12 for football.

    West Virginia
    East Carolina
    Southern Miss
    South Florida
    Central Florida

    We keep Notre Dame, Georgetown, Villanova and Marquette for basketball.

  6. Stay away from TCU. Good football school but would sooner or later be angling for membership in another conference like the Southwest or WAC.

  7. If the Big East has two or more defections it will no longer exist as a BCS conference. We can talk about adding ECU, UCF, Memphis or anyone else and it will not matter. It is just hopeful thinking. Just adding teams will not work. The national relevence of the programs added is what matters and none of the programs mentioned have it. A conference full of former C-USA teams does not even come close to measuring up with the other BCS conferences. I would not want to be the one making that argument in front of the BCS powers. Adding teams will make the Big East a viable football conference but not a BCS conference. As an added note, Jurich’s previous me myself & I hire of a exceptionally unqualified coach did not help the situation.

  8. Our trips to ECU were nothing but OUTSTANDING. Great stadium and atmosphere and tailgating, beautiful campus, and probably currently the best football fans in C-USA. I always looked forward to trips down to ECU and the Outer Banks when we were in C-USA. They always brought a lot of fans here too. They would be at the top of my list.

  9. Not to mention, ECU has the best player intro in college football. Think Enter Sandman by Metallica is good? Meh, too many teams do it now. ECU has purple smoke and players coming out of a mock pirate ship to the sounds of Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix.

  10. “Southern Miss averaged 30,100 per game last season. Put them in a BCS setting, and the program averages at least 10,000 to 15,000 per game.”


  11. RE: Football must be first and foremost among the priorities for U of L in future conference considerations…
    I beg to differ. Follow the money, and you will find the UL basketball program. Certainly glad to see Coach Strong on board–but I would guess the FB program is five years from contributing financially in any significant way.
    I see the solution to getting into a desirable FB conference to be becoming too good on the field and in the stands to be ignored. Go Cards.

    1. Well, U of L has upped the football stadium capacity to 56,000 for some reason. That reason being building a foundation for financial growth that only a successful football program can bring a school. You have to start somewhere with the program and that’s what Tom Jurich was doing before SK came along. Again, football first and foremost.

  12. There seems to be this assumption that giving non-BCS schools BCS status will automatically result in a higher level football program. That assumption is anything but certain. Look at Louisville. Five years after joining the BCS it has just finished its third straight bowl-less season and in many circles is considered currently one of the worst BCS teams. S. Florida was supposed to be a sleeping giant and has yet to contend for a conference title and play in anything other than minor bowl games. You could argue that both programs had better teams in their last years of C-USA. Cincinnati has had success the last two years, but is seriously lacking in facilities and fan support has only increased in the last year. Granted 5 years is not a long time and good things have happened to all three programs, but future success is not even close to being guaranteed. Adding S. Miss., ECU, UCF, etc. will only be adding teams that have the same non-guarantee of success. The BCS powers and conferences are not going to be handing out $17,000,000.00 bowl bids to a Big East conference that can only sell hope.

    1. Txcard, well I looked around a long time and didn’t see any other viable candidates. Putting these schools in what hopefully remains a viable BCS conference will certainly provide motivation for them to get better. Maybe we should just throw in the towel?

      1. It’s not about throwing in the towel as much as it is looking at reality. You are correct there are not a lot of viable candidates. That is why the Big East has not expanded. If the Big Ten raids the Big East, its future as a BCS conference is in big time trouble. This is really looking bad and I do not see much anyone can do about it. As I mentioned adding teams will make the Big East a viable football conference and the teams mentioned are good canditates. But as much as we would like it, I think the BCS would say thanks but no thanks. I just have a sick feeling that UL, Cincy and USF are going to be left out in the cold.

        1. Agree with Txcard. Any amalgamation of Big East and CUSA and it will take about two seconds before we are referred to as mid-major. There is nothing we can do except hope that the other BCS leagues decide to go the super conference route and invite us in.

          1. That’s what the Big East has been doing for the last decade and look where it got us. I think someone in the Big Ten tapped on the brakes this week to slow the process. One day they’re on a fast track, the next they’re saying there will no news for a while. If the Big Ten takes one, as some suspect they will, it is about time to begin picking up some new members.

  13. Interesting that no one seems to have mentioned what I believe to be the key driving element other than bowl games and that is television revenue. The problem with the mentioned candidate schools is that none of them have TV sex appeal. And that is where sooooo many $ come from.

  14. Agreed with Charlie, and those are some of the points I would call attention to in defining “dynamic.” You might also look at our prestigious scholarship and fellowship winners, including a Rhodes winner this year and, from what I hear, a wave of new Fulbright winners about to be announced.

    To answer 05spartan’s points above: I don’t mean to suggest that there are no urban/metropolitan universities in the Big Ten. The list you provided proves that there are. In fact, we would be happy to consider those urban/metropolitan universities you mentioned for membership in the Big East; each seem like they would provide a nice fit, and it sounds like you especially would like to be rid of Michigan.

    My point is that the Big East finds its strengths in the commonality of its member universities’ urban/metropolitan missions, and that this is a deliberate common thread. The strength of this identity influences how the conference assures its self-image and mission, the treatment of each university’s fan base, and the general well being of every respective athletic program, football and otherwise. The urban/metropolitan identity is a rich trait for our universities to share, and it is a strength that the Big East can offer to the likes of Rutgers and Pitt, their athletic programs and fan bases, that the Big Ten cannot, dollars be damned.

  15. As long as the BCS exists, college football will be a step below college basketball in terms of popularity and significance. A playoff systen must be installed, one that gives anywhere from 16-32 teams a shot at the championship and a clear champion. Most schools practice in the early months of December…what’s the drawback in adding a few playoff games in there?

    The other major sports in college athletics are doing it. Bowl game mumbo-jumbo…as outdated as wearing a pager.

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