College Football: Parity, Not Defections, Killing Big East

Ed JackoCorrespondent INovember 1, 2011

“God himself could not sink this ship!”

Passenger Sylvia Caldwell was the recipient of these foreboding words as she boarded the Titanic prior to its maiden voyage.

Commissioner John Marinatto seems to have this same belief about his badly listing employer, the Big East.

Despite water gathering around his ankles, and members such as Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia jumping into the last remaining lifeboats, Marinatto insists he can right the ship.

There are five football-playing members of the conference hoping he is right.

Marinatto remains gainfully employed despite his ineptness.  Maybe he is banking on the basketball reputation of the Big East being his saving grace. 

Or, is he?

Certainly, he realizes that losing the Panthers, Mountaineers and Orange to the ACC and Big 12 has lessened the gap between the Big East and the rest of college basketball. 

Maybe he hasn’t. 

That would explain why he makes comments such as this little pearl from a Big East teleconference: "In our 32 years, we have expanded more than any other conference in the country."

John, where have you been over the past 32 days?

In spite of recent defections, and the mind-numbingly cavalier attitude of Marinatto, the Big East will survive as a basketball and Olympic sport conference.

Survival as a football-playing entity is another story.

Surprisingly, the fate of the football-playing schools may be determined by something other than comically bad management.

The imminent fall of Big East football may be the result of parity.

No other college football conference can boast such equality from top to bottom.  Even the Big East basketball conference follows the generally accepted concept of front-runners and cellar-dwellers. 

The Big East football conference?  Not so much.

For every Alabama and LSU, there is a Vanderbilt and a Kentucky.  The Big Ten has Penn State, Ohio and Michigan, but is also home to Minnesota and Indiana.

It’s all part of God’s great plan.  It’s been well documented through time by great minds like Darwin.

In nature, there are predators and prey.  It has been that way since the dawn of time, and it shall always be that way.

It has also been that way since the evolution of college sports conferences. 

And, it always will be.

The Big East has always shied away from this model in football.  It has consistently thumbed its collective nose at the established norms and even boasted of conference-wide parity being a positive. 

On any given Saturday, any Big East team can beat any other.

Sounds good in theory.  Then again, so did New Coke.

College football, like it or not, has been built on dynasties.  Why do names like Michigan, Notre Dame and Nebraska still remain synonymous with the word football even though none of these teams has tasted national success in a number of years?

Each of these schools, along with a handful of others, has become legendary in the world of college football.  Each of these teams has been a dynasty at some point in its history.

The Big East, as it currently stands, cannot lay claim to any dynasties.  West Virginia would come closest, but even it cannot claim dynastic qualities.  WVU has always remained relevant, but relevance is not a dynasty.

Look at the recent history of Big East football.

Connecticut, last year’s BCS representative, won the conference title with an 8-4 mark.  This year, it's struggling to become bowl eligible. It doesn’t help that UConn, along with South Florida, has only been playing D1 football for a little over a decade.

Cincinnati, participants and losers in consecutive BCS games, finished 4-8 last season.  In 2011, it finds itself at the top of the league standings again.

Good for the Bearcats, bad for the reputation of the conference.

In order for the Big East to survive, it needs to find a way back to the roots of the conference.  It needs a Miami to win the conference seven out of every 10 years, and a Temple floundering around in the basement.

It works for the SEC, and it works for the Big Ten.

It’s what the football gods intended.


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