All of the movement in the Big East is enough to make your head spin, especially since it was announced today—by multiple sources (h/t Brent McMurphy of ESPN)—that East Carolina and Tulane will both be leaving Conference USA in favor for the Big East.
The Big East made the announcement official on Twitter:
East Carolina has joined the BIG EAST Conference as a Football Member. Pirates begin BE play in 2014. bigeast.org/News/tabid/435…— Big East Conference (@BigEastConf) November 27, 2012
The addition of East Carolina and Tulane makes up for the loss of Rutgers in the conference, but the question remains: Does the move to the Big East set the Pirates up for failure?
I think so.
How will ECU do in its first three years in the Big East?
There's no doubt that the Pirates have a strong following and loyal fan base—probably more loyal than half of the teams in the NFL—and that the move will bring more notoriety to the school and its football program. But at the end of the day it's about winning football games, and that's not going to be easy for the Pirates in the Big East.
ECU is gaining speed quickly, as you'll see in this Big East Football tweet, but it's still going to be a rough start for the Pirates.
ECU is the 2nd-largest university in North Carolina (28K students) & has been the fastest-growing campus in UNC system for 6 straight years— BIG EAST Football (@BigEastFB) November 27, 2012
As McMurphy's piece states, teams like Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia are high-tailing it out of the conference. Replacing them will be Boise State, San Diego State, Memphis and UCF, among others. Even with the departures, the Big East is still a lot more competitive than Conference USA.
ECU managed an 8-4 overall record in an average Conference USA in 2012—including 7-1 in the conference—but the Big East is a whole different beast. The teams are better, the games are more competitive and recruiting is a lot deeper.
A team like Boise State can switch over to the Big East and immediately make some noise given their dominance in the Mountain West during the past few years and their propensity to outscore opponents.
The Pirates will struggle.
Since 2005, ECU hasn't won more than nine games in a season, finishing first in the conference just twice. If they can't make it in Conference USA, how will they fare in the Big East?
I'm all for the Pirates moving to the Big East to improve their program and gain a recruiting edge, but unless they can rip Chris Johnson away from the Tennessee Titans and convince the NCAA to adjust his eligibility, it's going to be a while before the Pirates find themselves near the top of the standings in the Big East.
Follow me on Twitter: Follow @Pete_Schauer