I Tell Ya, The Big East Gets No Respect!

Edna ThomasContributor IIAugust 11, 2010

It's a good thing that Big East media day was last Tuesday and not this Tuesday. After the release on Friday of the USA Today coach's preseason poll, Big East commissioner John Marinatto would probably feel a little like the late Rodney Dangerfield when addressing the media:

"Great fans...great fans...I'm telling you I could use great fans...I'm ok now, but last week I was in rough shape...Why? I looked up our conference's teams positions in the pre-season USA Today coach's poll and found out the only BCS conference getting polled was us! Are you kidding? Last year they didn't even give us give us a position in the top 25! What were we supposed to do—play with ourselves?"

The Big East received only 4.4 percent of the USA Today's 19,175 total points in this year's poll. The SEC (22.4 percent), the Big Ten (19.0 percent), the Big 12 (17.3 percent) and the ACC (16.2 percent) all received a double digit percentage of the total points. They were followed by the PAC 10 (7.0 percent) , and then, insultingly, by non-BCS members MWC (6.7 percent) and WAC (6.3 percent). All of this before the Big East conference bleeped their radar screen!

"Ah, but the beat writer and the local media in the Big East are the greatest. You know...they love to report on our teams and on game days you can't keep them away from a good matchup. Are you kidding? Last season their Big East stories were phoned in from SEC games!"

Sadly, like Rodney, the Big East doesn't get much respect. This past offseason the perception that member schools were allowing themselves to be willing targets of expansion exasperated the media's health concerns for conference football. As a result, the national perception of Big East football being substandard not only persisted, but in fact, grew.  Only now with the added view of being on life support.

All of this has served to regenerate the belief that full recovery from the great escape of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College to the ACC, had not been, nor would be, reached. The seductive whispers that Big East football is just too weak to ever again command national attention or even deserve BCS status are alive and at full strength.

"I tell you, we get no respect. I was in Washington when first Lady Michelle Obama launched the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition this summer. I asked her what the Big East could do as an organization to help? You know what she said? They should start a football conference!"

At eight schools, the Big East is the smallest of the BCS conferences. With 16 members, the Big East is the largest Division I basketball conference. The Big East is the only conference that generates more TV money from basketball than it does from football.

"But our marriage with the Catholic schools is doing good. Oh yeah...we share no football revenue, we share no football administrative costs, but we share a special assistant, Paul Tagliabue, who gets to insult our football schools. We're doing everything we can to keep our conference together."

With the perception of incompetence tilting favorable public opinion away from the Big East, it is of little wonder that many college football fans cringed or laughed when the actual words Marinatto spoke on media day reached them—"The Big East is stronger today in every way than it has ever been."

I know Marinatto is said to be quirky by those who have met him, but what was the rationale behind this remark?  I decided to investigate...

In April, the BCS revealed its "holy canon" by which it determines automatic qualification for conferences.  The sacred paradigm contains three criteria that must be met, over a defined period of years, for a conference to attain and sustain automatic qualification status. 

Two of the criteria are that a conference must finish among the top six conferences when considering; (1) the rank of its highest-ranked team in the final BCS Standings each year and; (2) the collective rank (i.e. average) of all its team's final regular season rankings as prescribed by the BCS computers each year. 

The third criterion evaluates the weight of a conference's presence within the top 25 of the final BCS Standings each year.  It is a coined quantitative metric ascribed to each conference, the details of which can be found within the reference cited.  To meet the automatic qualification requirement of the BCS, a conference must attain a value for this metric, again over a prescribed period of years, that is at a minimum of 50 percent of the conference with the highest value for this measure.

The BCS's own criteria was applied to all conferences over the last four seasons (2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009) and shown in the below table. The underlined/bold values represent where each qualification criterion has met the BCS standards.

  •                                 BCS AUTOMATIC QUALIFICATION
  •                                                         2006-2009
  •                                CONFERENCE           CRITERIA
  •                                                                                            1      2       3
  •                                                  ACC                                   7      4    51%
  •                                                  Big East                            5      2    64%
  •                                                  Big Ten                             3      6    74%
  •                                                  Big 12                               2      5    75%
  •                                                  PAC 10                              4      3    62%
  •                                                  SEC                                    1      1  100%
  •                                                  WAC                                  6      9    34%
  •                                                  MWC                                 8     7     47%
  •                                                  Independents                10    10     7%
  •                                                  MAC                                11    11      2%
  •                                                  C-USA                                9    10      0%
  •                                                  Sun Belt                          12    12      0%


As can be directly seen from the table, only five of the six current BCS conferences (the SEC, the PAC 10, the Big 12, the Big Ten, and the Big East) fully meet all automatic qualification standards. It is important to note that while the ACC would be eligible for qualification by what is known as a Presidential Oversight Committee exemption, the MWC and the WAC would not qualify under any circumstance for BCS inclusion.

To be fair it must be stated that while the results shown here were conducted completely in concert with BCS standards and procedures, they are framed by lines drawn in the subjective BCS sands. To enlarge the scope of this discussion, a fair question to address would be "How would using the actual on-field outcomes affect the results of conference performances?"

To begin, the results of all BCS Bowl Games played since the last realignment (2005) were culled and are compiled and presented in the table below. They are arranged in the descending order of winning percentage for each conference.

  •                                         BCS BOWL GAME RESULTS
  •                                                          2005-2009
  •                            CONFERENCE             W       L         PCT.
  •                                 SEC                           7        2         .778
  •                                 WAC                          2        1         .667
  •                                 PAC 10                      3        2         .600
  •                                 Big East                     3        2         .600
  •                                 MWC                          1       1         .500
  •                                 Big 12                        3        4         .429
  •                                 Big Ten                      4        6         .400
  •                                 ACC                           1        4         .200
  •                                 Notre Dame               0        2         .000
  •                                 TOTALS                   24     24         .500

If one considers the current BCS conference arcade, it is only the SEC, the PAC-10, and the Big East that have winning percentages of .500 or better. It is interesting to note that it is the Big 12, the Big Ten, the ACC, and Notre Dame that are all below .500 and yield the poorest big stage performances from their most elite teams.

Equally interesting are the winning percentages of the WAC and the MWC conferences. Both, at .500 or better, would suggest that the five at-large bids extended to them were judicious and deserved.

These results involve only the most elite teams within the BCS conferences pitted against one another. How would the results differ if the entire manifold of out-of-conference (OOC) BCS versus BCS games were considered?

The actual results of all OOC intra-BCS games played since the last realignment (2005) are compiled and presented in the table below. The results are arranged in descending order of overall winning percentage.



                       HOME                  AWAY                NEUTRAL             OVERALL

                   W    L    PCT.       W     L   PCT.       W    L    PCT.     W     L    PCT.

SEC           19   15   .559        14   16   .467        26   14   .650       59   45   .567

PAC 10      18   12   .600        13   17   .433        14     9   .609       45   38   .542

ND             14    11  .560        11   11   .500          1     2   .333        26   24   .520

BE              20   15   .571        29   25   .444         9     9   .500        49   49   .500

BIG 12        14   10   .583          5   19   .208        24   18   .571       43   47   .478

ACC           23   25   .479        23   22   .511        15   23   .395       61   70   .466

BIG 10        20   12   .625        14   18   .438        12   26   .316       46   56   .451

TOTALS  128  100   .561      100  128  .439      101  101  .500     329  329  .500

From the row labeled, TOTALS, it can be seen that the average performance levels of the BCS schools, when playing each other OOC are; 56.1% at home, 43.9% on the road and of course 50% at neutral sites. The occurrences where each conference met or exceeded these average values have been underlined.  There are two points of note:

- The SEC, the PAC 10, Notre Dame and the Big East were at or exceeded the .500 level for overall performance.  Again, as was the case when considering only the big stage performances by the elite teams within the conferences, it is the Big 12, the Big Ten and the ACC that underperformed.

- It is the Big East - and only the Big East - that met or exceeded the average levels in all 4 performance categories (home, away, neutral site and overall).

In conclusion, the results presented here are in support of the widely held perception that the SEC is the strongest football conference.  In addition, the results discredit the perception that the Big East is lagging behind the other BCS conferences and losing ground to the non-BCS conferences.  Finally, the results show that the perception of the Big East as the worst BCS conference is, quite simply, unsubstantiated.

So, it would seem that rushing to the judgment that Commissioner Marinatto's remark were fool-hardy may have been a bit premature.  Maybe after reviewing the results presented here all Big East supporters can hold their collective heads a little higher and not feel the need to be quite so defensive.  As for how these results speak to the curmudgeons among the college football world, who would remain obstinate in their opinion?

I think the way Rodney spoke to this experience about sums it up for them...

"I tell you my doctor, he's another one.  You all know my doctor... Doctor Vinnie Boombatz... Big, Big college football fan.  I went to him the other day for my yearly proctology exam. He stuck his finger in my mouth!"



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