By Paul Sykes

Watch your back.

The Big Ten Conference is officially looking to expand again, with the aim of increasing its ranks to 12 schools. The reasons are obvious: An annual conference football championship game and more green for its already bloated coffers.

Missouri, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Rutgers are the schools most often mentioned as possibilities. Louisville has been included in the field by the Chicago Tribune. Even Cincinnati, with the most fickle fans in the nation, has been floated as a candidate.

Notre Dame is not in the picture this time, having consistently resisted conference overtures. The superiority complex doesn’t help either, nor does the fact that the football program is losing its luster. The Knute Rockne tradition can only get you so far when losing has become a habit. When their network deal isn’t renewed and they have to settle for a cable deal or what Directv offers, maybe they’ll change their position.


Great for Louisville to be mentioned among the possible candidates. But the odds of it happening are remote. U of L has it good right now in the strongest basketball conference in the country. On the football side, Big East teams have demonstrated they can hold their own and they have the poll recognition to prove it.

Can you imagine the good old boys at land grant schools like Michigan and Ohio State acknowledging U of L or Cincinnati as equals and welcoming a municipal university into their ranks? Without getting into the academic debate, the best argument for Louisville would be basketball where U of L is consistently ranked as the most profitable program in the nation. The expansion of Papa John’s would be a definite plus.

Perhaps the best thing about the Big Ten’s action is that it may force the Big East to finally become proactive in expanding the number of conference football teams in the conference. The scheduling issues have been ignored too long and are a threat to financial stability.

Schools like East Carolina, Memphis and Central Florida are viable candidates because they take their football seriously. Their fan bases are not insignificant and they would strongly support BCS-level football.

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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 “Louisville Football Needs Bigger Big East”
  1. IMO, Notre Dame has and always will be the target. In the 1% chance that the Big Ten were to look elsewhere, it would be towards Cuse/Rutgers in the East or Nebraska/Texas in the West

    Pitt, WVU, Louisville, UC, USF, and UConn are all non-candidates IMO because they either don’t offer a big enough market (UL, WVU), don’t have the academics (UC, USF, UL), are already within Big Ten territory and don’t provide much of a new market (Pitt, UC) or don’t have the athletic pedigree in football and/or basketball (UConn, USF). Syracuse and Rutgers (NYC market, great academics, and in Syracuse’s case, a good athletic pedigree) are the only two realistic candidates from the Big East.

    That said, I really don’t think we have to worry about the Big Televen grabbing a Big East team. I think their order of preference will be something like this:

    Notre Dame > Texas > Nebraska > Syracuse > Rutgers > Mizzou

    ND and Texas are both dream scenario but unlikely. While Texas would love to upgrade its academic affiliation and could make more money in the Big Ten, I doubt they’d make the jump to a conference located so far away. As much as the cable households matter for the Big Ten Network, Nebraska is still a big-time national name. If you take 2 seconds to think of potential matchups, which option sounds better from coast-to-coast:

    Nebraska vs. Michigan/Ohio State/Penn State


    Syracuse/Rutgers/Mizzou vs. Michigan/Ohio State/Penn State?

    It’s pretty easy to see which matchups the networks would prefer. Mizzou got passed over by a lower-ranked KANSAS team a couple of years ago that it beat head-to-head, which is something that would definitely never ever happen to Nebraska. Of the BE candidates, I still think Syracuse is the strongest. I know that Rutgers fits in terms of its public school profile and location, but the issue is that its history in both football and basketball trails Syracuse by a pretty significant margin and that’s something that the Big Ten is going to care about greatly. For as bad as Syracuse has been in football over the past few years, it still has a BCS bowl appearance and national championship in basketball to its credit this decade. Is the Big Ten going to take a chance on Rutgers after it has only had a few years of moderate success just because of its market? I’m leaning the other way – Syracuse is still a stronger brand name nationally, so it would get the nod.

    1. Notre Dame is not going to join the Big Ten or go “all in” with the Big East anytime soon. They’re in the most lucrative conference in college football…the NBC.

      In 2008, their contract w/NBC was extended to go through 2015 despite record-low ratings. It’s the reason why they can pay Charlie Weis’ $18M buyout without batting an eye.

      Rutgers makes the most sense for the Big Ten. East Carolina will then join the Big East.

  2. “Schools like East Carolina, Memphis and Central Florida are viable candidates because they take their football seriously. Their fan bases are not insignificant and they would strongly support BCS-level football.”

    I partially disagree. Here are the attendance figures for 2009 for those three schools.

    57. ECU – 41,742
    62. UCF – 38,078
    79. Memphis – 25,795

    ECU is by far the best out of the three possible candidates. They basically sold out their stadium this year and they are expanding their stadium to 50,000 next year. They’ve won back-to-back C-USA titles and have a very loyal football fanbase.

    UCF is the next best. They have great facilities, have a decent fanbase that is football oriented, and they have a ton of potential. Enormous student body and would guarentee a trip to Florida every year.

    Memphis has great basketball but their support for football is poor at best. The Liberty bowl is a dump, their practice facilities are terrible (no indoor facilities, etc), and their football fanbase is by far the worst out of the three. In many ways they are like Louisville – the fans will show up through thick and thin for basketball, but football needs a good product in order to draw any measure of support.

  3. Have you ever watched a Big Ten football game on TV? Those stadiums are always full of 60,000 or more fans. Although I think Missouri is the most logical candidate for the Big Ten to add, I think it would be a blast to go as a visiting fan to one of these venues and watch the Cardinals play. And, the city of Louisville is actually closer to more Big Ten football schools than it is Big East opponents. Indiana closer than Cincy. Purdue closer than Pitt. Ohio State closer than WVU. Illinois closer than Rutgers. Penn State closer than USF.

    The basketball part of it would be a bit of a drop off, no doubt, but Big Ten baseball, volleyball, women’s hoops and soccer are on par or better than Big East schools.

    Go for it, Tom. I hope the Cards get the invite. I’m ready for a Rose bowl trip!

  4. The question is, when the Big East loses Rutgers or Pitt to the Big Ten, what do the football schools do? The basketball schools will want to add East Carolina and stay the same old. same old. I ask do we final split and start building a 12 team all-sports conference? We could need five teams. ECU, Memphis, and UCF gets us to ten (10) teams, so who’s number 11 and 12?

  5. My guess is that Mizzou is the leading candidate, but let’s say they did take a Syracuse or Pitt. I’ll throw five candidates out for discussion.
    1) East Carolina. Wants in. Is expanding their stadium. Won the C-USA twice now. The inclusion would also draw interest to their hoops program, too.
    2) Memphis. Felt slighted last go around. Liberty Bowl is ancient, but would hold 70,000. Hoops program is strong.
    3) Central Florida. Football would draw the fans. Basketball not top flight but in a good recruiting area.
    4) Notre Dame (for Football). Time to force the issue and say “all in or out”
    5) Villanova (for Football.) They are playing for the FCS Championship Saturday. Much like UConn made the transition several years back to Div. 1…so could the Wildcats. A couple of very nice sized stadiums in the Philly area for them to play.

    This way, you are only adding 3 school that aren’t already playing Big East basketball. I know that 19 basketball teams in a conference seems a bit unwieldly…but by going to can create a workable schedule each year.

  6. An expansion of the Big Ten could prove to be disastrous to the football side of the Big East. Losing Pitt, Rutgers or even Syracuse would put the Big East’s membership in the BCS on life support. Adding another C-USA team would do nothing to improve the Big East or add to the national profile of the conference. It would only add fuel to the fire for those that think that the Big East is not worthy of BCS inclusion. The Big East is in need of a big time program with a national reputation. Can’t think of any, other than Notre Dame, that would even be a remote possiblilty. The only way the Big East can raise its national profile is for improvment from within. Losing any current member that has even the slighest national reputation will dimish that possibility. The Big East needs to hope that the Big Ten finds expansion unfavorable or that they raid another conference. Any loss of teams by the Big East would prove costly.

  7. Just a note about East Carolina. This article was linked at and within 10 minutes, more than 90 people from East Carolina had visited Card Game. They love and support their football in a major way. I mean we’re more than a month into basketball. Welcome EC fanatics!

  8. I am sold on East Carolina. If ever a fan base deserved being rewarded for the level of support, it is East Carolina. This is not an overnight thing with them. They are earning their way into a major conference. I say bring them on.

  9. Go Pirates!!!

    East Carolina University Football, outstanding school of medicine, Sandra Bullock, Emily Proctor, Kristen Dalton (the current Miss USA) and much, much more –

    Go Pirates!!!

  10. Great to see all the ECU response to the article! I would love to see the inclusion of the Pirates in the Big East! I miss the trips to Greenville for football…was fortunate to attend the 1998, 2001 and 2003 contests there. I have relatives in the Burlington, Mebane and Haw River areas of North Carolina and used to combine trips to visit them and attend the games there.

    I thank you again for the responses and readings of my article. Here’s to seeing the Pirates back on the Cards schedule as a Big East foe!

  11. Sandra Bullock alone is reason to include the Pirates. Whatever happened to Steve Logan? Good luck in your bowl game. Someday, Louisville will go to one again.

  12. Mizzou Tiger fans are divided about a move to the Big Ten if they come calling. We already have the traditional rivalry with Illinois. It would mean losing rivalries with Kansas and Nebraska though unless something could be worked out in the non-conference part of the schedule.

  13. @paul

    You can pretty much cross Nova off the list for the following reasons:

    Stadium Upgrade. Football Bowl Subdivision teams have to meet minimum attendance requirements (average 15,000 people in actual or paid attendance per home game), which must be met once in a rolling two-year period. Villanova Stadium currently seats 12,500. Expanding the stadium would cost several million dollars that would need to come out of the school’s athletic department or be financed via alumni donation. Temple already has an exclusive lease on the Eagle’s stadium for college football games so that option is out.

    2) Scholarships. FBS football allows 85 scholarship athletes and virtually all FBS teams give full athletic scholarships since partial scholarships still count the same as full scholarships (i.e. you can’t split them up to increase scholarship #). FCS allows for 63 full scholarship athletes or up to 85 partial scholarship athletes (i.e. you can give some students full scholarships and some students partial scholarships to have a higher number of athletes on scholarship). Tuition at Villanova is ~$38,000, room and board is ~$5,500, and student fees/meals plans/health fees is another ~$5,750. This leads to a total of $49,250 per athlete. This means, depending on how many scholarship Nova currently gives out, their athletic budget could be looking at a cost increase of $1,803,500 (if they only need to add 22 scholarships) to $4,186,250 (if they are non-scholarship and need to add the full 85).

    3) Coaching salary. Villanova would most likely have to give a pay raise to their coaching staff in order to retain coaches at the school. That is going to cost a few million more dollasrs.

    Since Villanova is a private school, they aren’t going to get help from the state to pay for the move to FBS. That means either alumni or the athletic department will have to pay for the move themselves (something I think is unlikely).

  14. ECU: Doctoral Research Intensive U. Many programs of national distinction. Nearly 30K students, fastest growing in the Carolinas. Expanding stadium to 50K as you read this (bulldozers onsite). And a demographic bridge in ACC country to USF. All we need is the BCS AQ tag. Think Virginia Tech and that’s ECU in five years.

  15. The Big East has two major problems. First, regardless of reality, it is nationally thought of as being the 6th best BCS conference. Second, an undefeated Big East champion is not held in the same regard as undefeated teams from the other BCS conferences. In fact, a one loss team from the Big 12 or SEC has just a good of chance, if not a better chance, to play for a national title than an undefeated BE team. The BE needs to add a team only if that team can change national perception. Adding an ECU, S. Miss., UCF, etc. would do nothing to help solve these problems now or in the future. In fact I would argue that bringing one of them in would greatly add fuel to the perception that the BE is the weakest BCS conference.

  16. Glad to see the love for the Pirates. The Big East should be more proactive this time around and pull the trigger! Add the Pirates. The fan base is second to none. This would put the Big East in the ACCs backyard.

  17. I am for adding ECU, Memphis and UCF. All three would prosper and excellent with the inclusion of BCS status. We could split and go to a Ten (10 team conference but I still think we will need 12 teams to keep our BCS status. One, over looked point is this thread is a playoff could becoming and the BCs would then be moot!

  18. louisville makes sense. 5 big 10 schools within a 4-5 hr drive, fans travel very well, a new 22,000 seat basketball arena that will be full every night, 56,000 seat football stadium that can be expanded to over 80,000 seats….and the president of the big 10 was the former president of the ohio valley conference…..that could help? Why the big 10 would want pitt, rutgers or syracuse is beyond me. Those fans dont travel well at all.
    And if you think the big 10 would not gain nothing with louisville you are nuts! Look at the top bball schools profit and tv ratings. There is alot more to gain with louisville than mizzou. Your not gonna boost football in any aspect unless you get notre dame, not gonna happen. Louisville could be a very strong big 10 city…tons of Indiana and Ohio St fans live here in louisville. Me as a louisville fan would love to play in the Big 10…and a football championship game!

  19. I am all for UCF joining the Big East. UCF and ECU are the two pillars of C-USA. They both defeated Houston (ranked #1 in the C-USA West). UCF and ECU are very arguably the No. 2 and No. 1 C-USA teams, respectively. Both basketball programs are also very strong and both recruit VERY well for Non-AQ.


    – 3rd largest school in the United States (undergraduate enrollment)

    – Brand-New 45,000 seat stadium

    – Brand-New 10,000 seat arena

    – Some of the best practice facilities on the East Coast

    – 2007 C-USA Champions

    – 2009 8-4, with wins over #12 Houston, losses to No. 2 Texas; No. 9 Miami, St. Pete Bowl vs. Rutgers (Big East), where a win is a definite possibility

    – Sold out the St. Pete Bowl (2009)

    – Avg Attendance ~39,000

    – Located in Florida (some of the best athlete recruits, and also a great TV market)

    1. ECU is the best choice to move into the Big East. Fan base, game attendance(sold out every home game this year), expanding stadium to 50,000 for next season and in a few short years it will grow to 60,000 seats (will happen sooner if accepted into BE). Second largest school in North Carolina (almost 30,00 students) Also,a Nationally ranked baseball program everyone seems to forget about, ECU hosted a regional last year in Baseball! ESPN loves ECU, they aired six ECU football games in 2009…what a great atmosphere. BE picking up ECU would make a lot of ACC schools in NC really mad ie… UNC, Duke, NCSU, Wakeforest which would draw some good basketball recruits from NC to the BE. ECU being in a BCS conference would help our football recruiting and hurt the other schools in NC. Just wait and see if ECU gets in a BCS conference and listen to all the tarholes star crying… that will be fun!

  20. As a Pirate fan I have to admit our basketball team is not that great, but is slowly turning around. It is contrary to what someone said earlier. However, Skip Holtz has taken us to the next level in football. We have beaten a ranked opponent for the last 3 years. Two CUSA championships, Lead conference USA in attendance, we are in the heart of ACC country (which can give the BE recruiting in NC as well as the Raleigh/Durham TV and Tidewater, VA TV markets on top of Eastern, NC. Our school is like an SEC school in that it takes its football very seriously, has some of the best tailgating in the country and has rabid fan support at home and on the road. CUSA is too spread out and the travel budget is off the charts. It would be nice to travel to some away games that are on the East Coast and in close proximity.

    Hopefully, we will be added to the Big East. It would be great to play you guys again.

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