Big East, BYU Courting Disaster with 14-16 Team Football League

Alex StrelnikovCorrespondent IISeptember 20, 2012

Why BYU and Others Should “Just Say No”

In an ESPN article, Brett McMurphy outlined the efforts by the Big East to attract teams for a 14 or 16 team league in a “bigger is better” effort. For that reason alone, BYU and others should say “no” to the Big East.

The Big East at 14 teams would be divided into two divisions. They would not correspond to geographic match-ups; they would instead be a hodgepodge that makes no sense at all. It seems the Big East is smoking stuff that is only legal if you have a doctor's recommendation in California. 

McMurphy reports in his article "Big East hung up on 14th member":

“The Red Division would consist of Louisville, South Florida, Connecticut, San Diego State, SMU, Navy and Memphis. The Blue Division: Cincinnati, Central Florida, Rutgers, Boise State, Houston, Temple and the 14th team.”

If anyone is geographically challenged, these might make some sense on some atmospheric level. However as fans go, if BYU were the 14th team, they would ask themselves, “do we want to travel to Cincinnati, Temple, Rutgers or Central Florida for a game?” The answer would be a resounding no.

Why, you ask? Money, time, travel, distance and “who are we playing?”

BYU has nothing in common with Temple, Rutgers, UConn or Cincinnati. There is no LDS density population in those areas, and travel for the LDS population on the East Coast would be expensive and time consuming. That matchup would be a loser from the get-go. Other teams being courted, such as Air Force, have a similar problem.


East - West Divisions Good for Fans

It seems the Big East is determined to create failure from the beginning. For the Big East to make sense for BYU, or other western schools' fans, the divisions should be East and West. The West would be comprised of San Diego State, SMU, Houston, Boise State, BYU, Central Florida, and South Florida. The East division would then be Louisville, Connecticut, Navy, Memphis, Rutgers, Temple, and Cincinnati. 

If the Big East went to 16 teams, and included Air Force and Army, it would make sense for Army to be in the East and Air Force in the West divisions respectively. 

Natural versus Contrived Rivalries 

If this were the make up of the Big East, natural rivalries would abound:

East Rivalries:

Army - Navy

Louisville - Cincinnati 

Temple - Rutgers

Memphis - Louisville

Connecticut - Rutgers



West Rivalries:

Central Florida - South Florida

BYU - Boise State

Boise State - San Diego State

Air Force - BYU

SMU - Houston


Army, Navy, Air Force Weakness

The problem is that Army and Navy are not competitive in collegiate athletics anymore, and Air Force will eventually follow. It is time for them to step down and join the Ivy League or another similar conference in the FCS. Army tried to be competitive in Conference USA from 1998-2004, but couldn’t match up. Restrictive standards on height and weight will always keep the service academies from being competitive on a regular basis except to inferior teams in the FBS conferences.

The addition of Navy for the Big East will eventually prove to be disastrous for Navy, as it becomes the whipping boy and eventually has to withdraw just as Army did from Conference USA. The withdrawal cost will be borne by the taxpayers, thanks to the federal funding of the service academies. 

To have all three service academies in the Big East will merely pad the win-loss record of Big East teams, and it won’t elevate “quality competition” calculations for the pending playoff system.


BYU Dominance

BYU has played Air Force 31 times and lost only 7 games. The results for the next 31 years won’t be much different. The same could happen to Army and Navy, not only with BYU, but with most of the teams in the Big East. Air Force could have a record in its division of 2-4 or 1-5 year after year. 

Air Force has had winning records based on three things: Beating the fellow service academies, beating FCS and lower level FBS teams and beating the worst of the Mountain West teams.

I dwell on Air Force so much because without Air Force, the Big East doesn’t make sense geographically for BYU. Boise State and San Diego State don’t make up a strong enough western schedule to justify the extreme travel needs.

BYU has learned from playing Hawaii the difficulty of playing teams two or three time zones away.  The 16-team WAC found the same problem and broke up. BYU is playing times adjusted for ESPN that puts their games at 10:00 Eastern time on Saturday night when all good boys are going to bed to get up for church Sunday morning, and the games don’t end until nearly 2:00am. Playing teams in the east at 10:00am Mountain time doesn’t help either; everyone is out mowing the lawn, raking leaves or shoveling snow. Football doesn’t start till 1 or 2.

Playing a schedule that is on ESPN at midnight doesn’t do BYU any good in the East or the West for the number one purpose, exposure.

Cross Division Rivalries - They Don’t Exist


Then there is the question of cross division rivalry games.

They don’t exist.

Perhaps they exist now with the service academies. But how do you develop a rivalry between BYU and Temple? Or Boise State and UConn? Maybe Memphis and Houston, but does the national TV audience buy into that one to help ESPN viewership and revenues? No.

The Big East is padding itself with teams for only one reason, to go to ESPN and get a bigger contract, and they will use BYU and other teams to do that. I, for one, don’t think ESPN is that dumb. They know the viewer numbers when Memphis or Temple plays a football game.

They know the numbers when BYU plays on ESPN, and that is why they pay BYU $4 million a year. When BYU gets a larger viewing audience, they will get more money. BYU wouldn’t necessarily do much better in the Big East, as the range of payments to football only conference members will be only $4-6 million. 

Winning games and playing bigger opponents will get better viewership for BYU and that will enrich the payout all by itself.

The Past as Prologue

One of the problems with the MWC was the size of audience the teams pulled in. Wyoming, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV, Air Force and others just didn’t have a large enough TV audience or fan base to make playing them economically viable. That is the current problem with Idaho, New Mexico State, and Utah State in the effectively-defunct WAC.

The Big East offers the same problem to BYU. BYU has a stadium of 66,000, which it fills regularly. Big East teams have the same drawback as the MWC. 

Stadium capacity of the Big East:


Cincinnati - 36,000

Connecticut - 40,000

Louisville - 55,000

Temple - 68,500

South Florida - 66,000

Central Florida - 45,000

Rutgers - 52,000

SMU - 32,000

Houston - 32,000

San Diego - 

Boise State - 37,000

Air Force - 52,000

San Diego State - 71,000

Once again, BYU would have the attendance record in the conference if it were to join the Big East. In looking at school population numbers, some of the schools don’t even have the student body numbers to fill much more than 10% of those seats, a prescription for failure that BYU has already fought through in both the WAC and MWC.

It is precisely why Pittsburgh and Syracuse have left the Big East. Why would BYU jump into the swimming pool that these two teams just paid millions to get away from?

AQ - BCS Advantage Disappearing

The advantage at one time of being in the Big East was the whole AQ and BCS deal. That is dead. There will shortly be no AQ and no BCS. BYU does not advance its prospects of getting into the “big game” by being in the Big East due to automatic qualifying status.

What BYU could do is a deal like Notre Dame, and the Atlantic Coast Conference. They could play five or six games guaranteed with the Big East, giving the Big East a western partner for recruiting, exposure, quality teams, and the like. To be successful, the Big East will need more than Boise State and San Diego State. BYU can offer them that without membership.

BYU’s Path to an Invitation to the Big Games

 If BYU can play a schedule like it has in 2013 regularly, and win all of its games, they will get an invitation to the “big game” through beating quality opponents and being ranked. Winning its 12 games or 13 with Hawaii will do that. BYU doesn’t need the Big East, the Big East needs BYU, and BYU should “just say no” to the Big East.

The formula the Big East is laying out has been done and failed. Too many teams spread out over too far of distance geographically with no relationship to each other creates no interest in the matchups.

The end result will be that the Big East is headed the way of the Western Athletic Conference.


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