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Big East: Saving the Conference in 8 Easy (ok Not so Easy) Steps

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Big East: Saving the Conference in 8 Easy (ok Not so Easy) Steps
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Pitt and Syracuse may have taken out the Big East at the knees, but the conference can still keep moving forward.

The Big East is like the US Economy, strong, if every participant believes it is strong.

However with Pittsburgh and Syracuse University jumping to the Atlantic Coast Conference, the current members of the Big East are lacking confidence.

Things looked tough for the Big East as a BCS automatic qualifier conference, but drama in the Big 12 has created a window of opportunity in which the Big East could potentially get a spot.

The Big East membership met on Oct. 2 to discuss expansion.  Army, Navy, Air Force, Temple University, Southern Methodist University and the University of Central Florida were among the  candidates discussed. The first five schools have academic profiles that would not be out of place in a BCS automatic qualifier conference.  While UCF does not, it is one of the largest enrollment universities in the United States and is located in an NFL sized city that does not have an NFL team. It has all the attributes to be a major attendance draw team in the AQ ranks and offers a sizable local TV market.

Of the names reported, SMU is a new one added to the Big East expansion talk.  On the positive side, SMU is quite prestigious and an excellent academic school. They are currently ranked No. 62 in the U.S. News ranking of doctorate degree granting national universities.  Head football coach June Jones has built the program into team with the potential to be a top 25 team each year.

On the negative side attendance has always lagged at SMU since they endured the death penalty.  Last year SMU averaged 23,515 fans per game.  That would make them the worst attended program in the Big East by quite a bit.

On the flip side, Dallas/Fort Worth is an NFL city.  Turnout for collegiate games tends to go up when teams are winning and when those teams play at higher levels of competition.  It is very likely that SMU would draw much better as a member of a BCS AQ conference, but at the end of the day their stadium only seats 30,000.

SMU's sudden candidacy is interesting on another level.  The Big East does not like the idea of adding duplicate teams in designated market areas, for example, TV markets. TCU and SMU are both in the Dallas/Fort Worth DMA. It is possible that they are looking at SMU as a potential replacement for Texas Christian, should the Big 12 poach the Horned Frogs.

This list of schools comes following leaks that the Big East is not interested in other frequently mentioned public schools in Conference USA; Houston, East Carolina and Memphis.  Those schools are rated significantly lower in the U.S. News academic rankings than most members in BCS AQ conferences.

Which leads us to the question who should the Big East add?

The Big East apparently emerged from their meeting with a plan.

"The group concluded the meeting with a strategy to recruit top level BCS-caliber institutions that match the league's strong athletic and academic histories and traditions," said West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck.

Everyone has ideas on how the Big East can rebuild. 

I wrote pretty extensively on Big East expansion and the problems facing the conference last year and have come up with this new prescription for the conference this year.

I hope Big East Fans enjoy it.

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