Let's cut the remaining members of the Big East a break. Instead of picking it apart for its apparent shortcomings and mocking it when compared to other, perhaps more stable conferences, let's give the conference a chance to chart their own path. That new beginning officially begins today with the release of the 2013 conference schedule for the ten conference members on board for the upcoming college football season.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving the conference to join the ACC in 2013. The Big East will lose Louisville to the ACC and Rutgers to the Big Ten in 2014, but right now is the time the conference must focus on a fresh approach, as the departing basketball members will also be taking the conference banner with them. What is left of the "old" Big East will focus on finding a new conference identity in more ways than one, starting with a new name.
The path to this point has been rocky and troubling for the conference, but with the dust settling it is all about what happens next.
As spring football opens up around the nation and the conference, the time to give everyone a breath of fresh air is right now. Despite the changes going on with realignment, the ultimate goals remain the same in every camp. Conference championships are the targets all over, and perhaps for some the goals are a little loftier.
Rivalries are as much a part of the conference make-up as anything. This year in the Big East, we will see the potential culmination of the great Louisville-Cincinnati rivalry. This will leave more room to share in the future for incoming rivalries such as Houston-SMU and an explosion in a rivalry between Central Florida and South Florida. It may take some time for other rivalries to truly take form, but those will come over time. That is what makes watching this conference move forward one of the underappreciated aspects of the conference.
The pedigree of the conference has gone down. Nobody will dispute this. But this really can be one of the more exciting times in the conference's history. We just need to give them all a chance to embrace the challenges ahead at their own pace, without being quick to point out the potential flaws.
What needs to happen for the Big East to have a successful season:
1. Pick a conference name that doesn't ridicule itself
As long as the remaining Big East members stay away from the advisers who shared Legends and Leaders with the Big Ten, we should be in good shape.
2. Hold their own in non-conference play
Nothing builds respect faster than head-to-head wins against the other big conferences. The 2013 conference schedule features 14 games against schools from the Big Ten, SEC ACC and one against Notre Dame in September. Winning eight of those games would do wonders for the conference's image. Avoiding bad losses against schools from the smaller conferences would have an equally, if not stronger, downward pull as well.
3. Avoid sloppy play on national television
The Big East will take advantage of weeknight prime time games throughout the season. When fans from around the country are catching their rare glimpses of the conference, it would be best not to embarrass yourself with poor play. Avoid turnovers and poor tackling and respect will come.
4. Play well in the postseason
The Big East football conference, whatever it ends up being named, will retain an automatic spot in the BCS games this upcoming season. This means the conference champion will be rewarded with an automatic spot in the Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl or Fiesta Bowl if not qualifying for the BCS National Championship (hold your laughter now please). The Big East managed to accumulate a winning record last bowl season, highlighted by Louisville's spanking of Florida. If they can manage to play well in one more postseason, that should serve as a cherry on top of what could be a successful season under a new brand image.