Will there be real Bearcat fans this year?
The Big East is a conference that does not receive a lot of positive attention. The past few seasons are seasons that, at times, the league would rather forget.
Every other BCS conference and most of the nation, with exception of maybe the MAC and Sun-Belt Conferences, will constantly remind the Big East, every team in it, and their fans just how horrible they are.
I for one believe that the league and most of the schools in the Big East have acknowledged in some way that the conference is not performing in a capacity that it would like to be, and should be, since it is an automatic qualifying conference.
Not only has the Big East acknowledged its sub-par play but, there has been action taken to improve Big East football. Only time will tell how these changes will improve the Big East's image and performance, but I believe that most of the changes are going to make the conference better.
Before we go into what the conference is doing to make itself better lets discuss just how bad it is.
- Only three schools have an overall winning record; Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia.
- No team for the Big East finished in the final Top 25 of any poll in 2010.
- There was a three way tie for the Big East championship in 2010 and West Virginia, the team that most people felt would have better represented the conference in a BCS bowl, didn't get the chance to do so. They lost to NC State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
- Since the BCS began in 1998 the Big East has only won 6 out of 13 BCS bowl games. Out of those six wins only three of them are by current members of the Big East: two by West Virginia and one by Louisville.
- Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College left the Big East for the ACC. Once these teams left the competition in the conference dropped a good margin. Miami was the last Big East team to win a national championship and won three of the Big East's six BCS games talked about above.
So as you can see the Big East has a long way to go to fix some of the problems listed above, so what are they doing to fix them?
The Big East absolutely must invite new teams to the conference in order to improve football competition.
And they have started doing just that. With the addition of TCU starting in 2012 the Big East has already improved the quality of the conference. TCU will be able to compete for the league title year in and year out; they also will likely be the favorite to win the conference title most seasons.
Now that the addition of Villanova has stalled a bit, maybe they can look for a better team to offer an invitation. I don't mean to offed any Nova fans but Wildcat football is nothing like Wildcat basketball. We understand that with time and effort they could be at a competitive level in the top level of college football but that would take time effort and money.
Offering a team like Houston, UCF, East Carolina and even Marshall would be better than Nova. These teams are ready to compete right now with up-to-date facilities and programs. Lets hope they lean in that direction, because adding a lower division school like Villanova will not make the Big East better.
Every school in the conference, with the exception of Rutgers, has hired new coaches in recent years. Some of the additions were out of necessity, but a few were actually for the purpose of improvement.
PITT - Todd Graham is coming into his first year as the Panthers head coach, his offense at Tulsa was very effective and should be just as good in Pittsburgh.
WVU - Dana Holgorsen is the head coach in waiting and will take over the program in 2012. Holgorsen's offenses have been some of the best in the country and there are no signs that it will be any different at West Virginia.
Louisville - Charlie Strong is starting his second season as the Cardinals head coach after replacing now LSU offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe.
Syracuse - Doug Marrone is beginning his third season as the Syracuse head coach. He made huge improvements for the Orange last season and almost had them included in a tie for the league title. Imagine that, FOUR Big East champions!
South Florida - Skip Holtz is beginning his second season as the Bulls boss.
Cincinnati - Butch Jones is coming into his second season as well. Butch is replacing Brian Kelly who left the Bearcats for the Irish, his Alma Mater.
UCONN - Paul Pasqualoni is starting his first season as the Huskies head coach, his last job being the head coach for Syracuse in 2004.
Rutgers - No change
With the exception of Rutgers each team will have to transition to different coaching staffs within a two to three year period. Someone tell me that this is not a sign that the schools in the Big East are trying to improve the league and themselves.
Now the best way to show that the Big East is getting better is to continue and increase aggressive scheduling of quality opponents. The only way to show you're better is to win football games against quality non conference opponents. Below i've listed each teams non conference opponents.
- Cincinnati Bearcats: Austin Peay, Tennessee, Akron, NC State, Miami (Ohio)
- Connecticut Huskies: Fordham, Vanderbilt, Iowa State, Buffalo, Western Michigan
- Louisville Cardinals: Murray State, Florida International, Kentucky, Marshall, North Carolina
- Pittsburgh Panthers: Buffalo, Maine, Iowa, Notre Dame, Utah
- Rutgers Scarlet Knights: NC Central, North Carolina, Ohio, Navy, Army
- South Florida Bulls: Notre Dame, Ball State, Florida A&M, UTEP, Miami (FL)
- Syracuse Orange: Wake Forest, Rhode Island, Southern California, Toledo, Tulane
- West Virginia Mountaineers: Marshall, Norfolk State, Maryland, LSU, Bowling Green
Out of every school I have to give the most credit to Pittsburgh, who has scheduled what I believe to be the toughest 2011 non-conference schedule in the Big East. But there are A LOT of lower division schools on these schedules, and with just eight schools in the conference it should have been more important to schedule tougher opponents then say Akron, Rhode Island, Norfolk State etc.
Now is the time for everyone to get on their soapbox and tell us what they think would make the Big East better. Please leave your thoughts in the comment section and enjoy.