All the rage is "Texas to the Big 10."
Radio, television, internet, you name it. People are talking about it, and that more than anything is a guarantee that a move like that would pay off in spades for both Texas and the Big 10.
A move like that would also signify that the college football landscape has shifted to the point of geography no longer being an issue when it comes to market value and positioning for strength.
No longer are regional rivalries the driving force behind conference affiliation. That has been replaced by the almighty dollar. And for those that stand to hit the college football sweepstakes... in the words of Michael Douglas, "Greed is good."
While the college football world is being held hostage by the Big 10 and Pac 10 as they sit on their thumbs prolonging what they already know they are going to do, the fans are left to wonder if their school and conference leaders are asleep at the wheel, or working behind closed doors to ensure their respective teams have a seat at the table when this round of conference realignment is over.
Nobody wants to end up like the old Southwest Conference leftovers with no place to call home.
So that brings me to the point of all this jibberish. Why should the Big East football schools sit back and wait for a basketball driven front office to react rather than be proactive?
If it there is a collective brain among the eight Big East college presidents from the football schools, one hopes they will use that brain and make a move to ensure that all the time and money their fans and alumni have spent investing in those institutions will not have been done in vain. Sitting back and waiting on the Big 10 to take one or more of your core teams is not confidence inspiring.
The Big East will never overtake the Big 10, ACC, or SEC in the eyes of the media, that much is for certain, but they can strengthen their position, but it will take proactive measures. Something Big East fans have very little confidence that their leaders will comprehend.
For starters, there really is no future for the eight Big East football schools in terms of alignment with the eight Catholic, basketball-only schools. Everyone seems to be able to see it by those that make the decisions. Sure, the partnership served its purpose the last several years post-ACC raid.
Still, there is no incentive for the basketball-only schools to act on behalf of any football driven agenda. So what if the football schools lose their BCS bid. It won't affect the basketball-only schools in any way. They will still make the same amount of money whether football in the Big East folds or not.
So with absolute certainty the best option for the future of the Big East football schools is to break off and do their own thing. As stated earlier, they will never be mistaken for the SEC or Big 10, but they can take proactive steps to ensure they remain a player in major college football into the future.
So, cutting to the chase, the Big East needs to become—at a minimum—a 12 team football league. And in all honesty, the possibility of 14 teams should be on the table as well.
Now there are many ways to look at expanding the Big East and who they should take and for what reason, but the only thing that truly matters at the end of the day is TV market share.
What available schools offer that to the Big East? I am glad you asked. Houston, Texas Christian (TCU), Memphis, and Central Florida (UCF).
Looking strictly at TV potential, the Big East already occupies the largest amount of TV sets (from a geographic footprint perspective) of any conference. What will give the Big East future bargaining power will be strengthening its TV footprint.
Again, the Big East is not going to overtake the SEC or B10, but it can remain a viable BCS conference and continue to get stronger.
By bringing in TCU, Houston, UCF and Memphis, the Big East would be adding the No. 5, No. 10, No. 19, and No. 48 TV markets in the country, respectively. That equates to a lot of potential eyes tuning in to see Big East games.
Also, recruiting areas have been an issue for the Big East. Most upper echelon recruits come from the southern states, but the majority of Big East schools are northern based.
For the 2009 recruiting class, 218 kids signed 1A/FBS scholarship offers from the state of Florida. Also in 2009, 318 kids from the state of Texas signed to play FBS/1A football. Tennessee had 47 kids sign with FBS/1A programs. For 2010, 30 kids from the state of Florida signed with the seven Big East schools not residing in the state of Florida.
With a strong Big East presence in Texas, Florida and Tennessee, recruiting should improve overall—at least from an opportunity standpoint—for all 12 Big East football schools. For the four new Big East schools, they would be able to use being BCS schools to their advantage when recruiting against other BCS programs in their states.
Another issue that has plagued the Big East has been a lack of quality minor or second tier bowl game affiliations. By adding teams in Texas and Tennessee, the Big East effectively becomes more marketable to the combined seven bowls played in Texas and Tennessee. Adding a second Florida based school won't hurt the chances of Florida-based bowl games becoming more interested in the Big East either.
Is it a guarantee that those bowls will be interested in the Big East? No. But they will at least be more appealing from a local interest standpoint, and that is a step in the right direction.
Getting to 12 teams also means the Big East gets a championship game, and southern and northern divisions would offer a pretty good dispersal of conference strength from the "get-go."
Big East North
West Virginia (WVU)
Big East South
South Florida (USF)
WVU, Pitt, Cincy, Houston, TCU, and USF all spent time in the top 25 this past season. Nine of those 12 teams played in bowls this past season as well.
Also WVU, Pitt, Cincy, Louisville and TCU have played in BCS bowls in the last seven years with wins coming over the SEC, Big 12, and ACC champions. This conference would also continue to be a major player in college basketball, and the conference's baseball strength would increase exponentially.
If there were a desire to move to 14 teams, adding Southern Mississippi to the Southern Division and East Carolina to the Northern Division would make great geographic sense, but admittedly neither bring much to the table in terms of national appeal or market share. It would be nice to see the Big East become the hunter for a change, instead of always having to watch out for others to come pilfering and pillaging.
So for the time being, we are going with a 12-team format for the new Big East as the ideal plan of action, while keeping an eye on surrounding events...just in case the number 14 becomes more appealing.