Big East FB: Conference of the Forgotten Programs

Gregory SalyerCorrespondent IDecember 17, 2007

As much as I love the Big East, it's slowly but surely losing its status as a major football conference.

Every other conference has its traditional powers—the Big Ten has Ohio State and Michigan; the Pac 10 has USC and UCLA; the Big 12 has Oklahoma, Texas, and Nebraska; the SEC has Alabama and Tennessee; the ACC has Miami, Boston College, Florida State, and Virginia Tech.

The Big East has one such powerhouse—Pittsburgh, who hasn't been very impressive since the 1980s.

The Panthers have five national championships and a slew of legendary players to their credit. They've put together some of the finest teams in history through great coaching and recruiting—and just plain hard-nosed football.

In the last two decades, though, that Pittsburgh tradition has mostly disappeared—much like the lost traditions of Baylor and Army.

Losing Miami, Boston College, and Virginia Tech didn't necessarily hurt the Big East in the short term, but it contributed to the conference's gradual decline. West Virginia and Louisville are the premier teams in the league right now—and they've both lost head coaches in the past two years.

Bobby Petrino jetted out of Louisville last season to coach the Atlanta Falcons for all of 13 games. He's now the head coach at Arkansas

IconRich Rodriguez, meanwhile, seemed set to stick with his alma mater at WVU despite fielding offers from big-name programs. Then he up and left for Michigan.

Sure, it's a dream job—but what happened to loyalty?

If Rodriguez had been a former position coach or coordinator at Michigan, the decision would be more understandable. As it stands, why leave your roots when you're so close to perennial-power status?

It's sad to say, but historical tradition seems to be the driving force in modern college football.

Notre Dame just completed one of the worst seasons in the history of the program—yet its recruiting class for next year will be top-notch. Not because of Charlie Weis, or last year's BCS bowl appearance—but rather because the Irish won some national titles in the the 1940s, or something.

Notre Dame, Nebraska, Alabama, UCLA—these are all schools whose football programs aren't exactly in the best shape these days. And still all of them will always be a step ahead of the Louisville's and West Virginia's of the world.

I guess it's true what they say—you can't escape your history. 

Gregory Salyer is the author of Red Reign, an in-depth Louisville Cardinal blog.