Conference Realignment Wrap Up: How The Big East Can Save Itself
Being from the other side of the country, the Big East as a football conference suffers from the same questions that the Mountain West does. Do the Big East and Mountain West deserve to be AQ BCS conferences?
Just as important in the current economy are two additional questions: First, how is your TV contract treating you? And, second, in the upcoming age of the superconference, will the Big East and Mountain West be able to survive?
Instead of letting the Big Ten+2 and the Pac-10+2 lead the way, the Big East and select teams from the Mountain West Conference (MWC) should lead the way and form the country's first superconference with the best and most well-positioned teams from the MWC. For simplicity sake, I’ll refer to these teams as the MWCII.
Three things would be crucial for this to work:
1. This "marriage" would be for football only. The MWCII teams would be on their own for all other sports. But other opportunities would exist for these teams to work together outside of football. This is especially true for basketball.
2. This new superconference should run its own TV network, a la the Big Ten Network and The Mountain Network.
3. These new BCS conference teams should expand the offerings of their new TV network by implementing significant inter-conference play in basketball and other sports.
Why would this work? Simple: It makes sense. The Big East currently lacks the prestige of the SEC or the Big 10+2, and its champion's quality is called into question yearly.
On the other hand, the MWCII teams, led by TCU, Boise State, and BYU deserve to be in a BCS AQ conference. Both conferences are filled with teams that are either “not too long ago” mid-majors or are currently mid-majors (Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville, South Florida, UNLV, San Diego State, New Mexico and Air Force).
By joining together these questions are all put to rest on the field. This new superconference would pit the best of the West against the best of the (Big) East.
1. The “New” Big East…the “Great American Conference” Anyone?
So, how could they make it work?
First, the Great American Conference (GAC) would need to invite the best and most geographically relevant of the MWC and one non-MWC team on the rise that is geographically relevant to join the conference for football only. These MWC teams would be Air Force, Boise State, BYU, New Mexico, San Diego State, TCU, and UNLV. (Sorry Wyoming and Colorado State, you’re out. But, the WAC will be happy to have you back.) The non-MWC team to make the grade would be Houston (from C-USA). These teams would form the West Division of the conference, which would look like this:
Great American Conference
San Diego State
Second, scheduling. As the teams from the MWC know, the 16-team WAC was a dismal failure. But, that was due to the quad system and lost rivalries and unknown teams. The GAC should play nine regular season games, seven within each division and two inter-division games. So, travel wouldn’t be greatly affected, as each school would be required to make only one “long” road trip each year. But these games would open up new markets for new recruiting and rivalries in the long run.
The GAC would be a success from day one with the addition of three perennial top 25 programs in Boise State, TCU, and BYU. Boise State and TCU have both busted the BCS in the past four years. Air Force is a strong mid-level team with a national following due to it being a service academy. Houston is up-and-coming and its market is huge. Finally, New Mexico, UNLV, and San Diego State are strategic in maintaining existing bowl tie-ins and are located in mid-to-large media markets.
The GAC would then be able to pick from a number of great venues at which to hold its conference championship game: Heinz Field (Pittsburgh), Reliant Stadium (Houston), and Invesco Field at Mile High (Denver) are just a few of the possibilities. How does Pitt vs. BYU or Rutgers vs. TCU or Boise State vs. West Virginia for the right to go to the Orange Bowl sound?
2. The New GAC Network
Both the Mountain West Conference and the Big Ten have shown that a conference can improve its financial well being with its own TV network. The New GAC Network would do exactly the same for the GAC, Big East, and MWCII. But unlike the Big Ten Network and Mountain Network, the GAC Network will have much more programming.
Instead of offering programming from only 12 teams (Big 10) or nine teams (MWC), the GAC Network would offer programming for 24 teams—16 teams during football season and 24 teams the rest of the year. Yes, the new GAC Network should provide nationwide programming for all 24 teams. Such an arrangement would work because the teams currently in the Big East would utilize the earlier time slots for programming and the teams from the MWCII would utilize the later-starting programming slots. Inter-conference play outside of football would also increase viewership nationwide. Also, with 24 teams, there is also a greater inventory of relevant programming to fill the Network’s schedule.
To keep things financially simple, the 16 teams making up the Big East should receive two-thirds of the money from the network, due to the larger population base in the east and more teams to feed come basketball season. The eight teams of the MWCII should receive one-third of the money. Each group would then be responsible for splitting their respective “bounty” amongst their member schools as they felt best.
While the new GAC Network would likely not generate revenue equal to that of the Big Ten Network, on a team-by-team basis, it would like generate significantly more revenue than the Big East and the Mountain West are currently making.
Now that the plan is laid out, what does it accomplish? That is simple. First, the teams from the Big East maintain their status as BCS teams and they are insulated from the certain death that will come upon them should the Big 10+2 and the SEC expand. For example, if the Big 10+2 took Rutgers, Pitt, and Syracuse with Notre Dame to form a new Big 10+6 and the SEC took four teams from the ACC, all the GAC would need to do to maintain its Eastern Division would be to add four teams from the ACC. Dogs need not apply.
Second, it will ensure the long-term viability of all of these football programs in the era of the soon-to-be superconference. If there is a Big Ten+6, an SEC+4, a Pac-10+2+6, it would be in all of these teams’ best interest to ensure they have a seat at the BCS superconference table.
Be assured, the day of the superconference is coming. Who knows where Notre Dame will land, or Texas for that matter. But one thing is for certain: When the dawn of the superconference rises over the college football horizon, colleges don’t want to find themselves on the outside looking in. Just ask Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, and Missouri.
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