Big East Football: Does the Conference Need Expansion?
During the exodus of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College from the Big East to the ACC, panic reigned in the Big East.
A variety of solutions were discussed, including a merger with Conference USA to create a super-conference. In the end, the Big East scooped up Louisville, Cincinnati, and South Florida (along with DePaul and Marquette for basketball.)
The addition of these three teams have benefited Big East football. Louisville and Cincinnati have both won the conference championship (in 2006 and 2008 respectively) and South Florida has risen in the ranks all the way to No. 2 spot.
But in the era of big time conference championships, it may be time for the big East to look at further expansion. Adding four more teams and creating a championship game could bring extra revenue to the conference and schools.
Also, new television markets could be found by entering areas the Big East have no yet reached. This could also benefit the recruiting by exposing high school players to the teams and tradition of the conference who may have never been exposed to it before.
But what four teams would be the best for this expansion?
A short list of schools include the following.
Notre Dame—A basketball member already, the storied program may need to look to conference play if the low-win seasons continue. Many feel the Fighting Irish would join the Big Ten over the Big East, but the Big East could be a very good fit for the Irish.
A long running feud with Pitt could be played up, as well as potential feuds with Syracuse (the upset win by the Orangemen in 2008 could be referenced) and a feud with Rutgers (many Notre Dame alumni and fans populate the New York City area) and West Virginia (Notre Dame ended WVU's undefeated season and National Championship hopes in the 1988 Fiesta Bowl.)
East Carolina—Another perfect fit for the conference. The Pirates have a long running series with WVU, including a dominating 24-3 win in 2008.
North Carolina is prime ACC-country and getting their foot in the door, the Big East can establish themselves in the television market of the region as well as steal away some recruits from ACC schools.
The Pirates also have great facilities and a great stadium. Dowdy-Ficklen stadium can seat more people then both Cincinnati's and Connecticut's home fields.
Memphis—The southern school has been successful in recent years—making bowl games three of the last four years. Adding a team in this southern market (and a large one at that) could increase the conferences southern following. Adding a team in the south could also help South Florida in travel.
Feuds could be played up with both Cincinnati and Louisville from their Conference USA days.
Villanova—Bring the Wildcats up to the Football Bowl Subdivision could have similar effects to what Connecticut went through. The Philadelphia market is huge and could bring in big revenue to the conference.
Also, feuds with Rutgers (due to proximity), Pitt (Pennsylvania East versus Pennsylvania West) and Connecticut ("a battle of the new guys to big time football") could all be used to market the move.
A list of other teams who could be added to the conference include Central Florida, Southern Mississippi, Florida Atlantic and Marshall.
While the move will not be happening anytime soon, the officials in the Big East should take a hard look at the scenario. It could lead Big East football to a new level never seen before.
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