Big East Must Retain Top Coaches To Remain Relevant

J. GarciaContributor IDecember 12, 2009

CINCINNATI - NOVEMBER 27:  Brian Kelly the Head Coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats is pictured during the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Nippert Stadium on November 27, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

What will the Big East's eight coaches all have in common heading into 2010? None have led a team to a BCS game.

This sad scenario will happen for the second time in recent history as the conference faced a similar situation going into the 2008 season, following the departure of Rich Rodriguez from West Virginia. 

Brian Kelly added his name this week to an ever growing list of Big East coaches who have recently bolted from the programs they've taken to the top of the conference for higher-profile jobs. 

This first was Bobby Petrino, who left Louisville following the school's first Big East championship and an Orange Bowl victory after the 2006 season. 

Next, was Rich Rodriguez's infamous 2007 departure from West Virginia, after the school's second Big East title in three seasons.

Petrino's time in the NFL was a disaster, but he seems to have landed gracefully at Arkansas and headed in the right direction, while Rodriguez's legacy remains undecided at Michigan. 

Now, Brian Kelly is leaving a Cincinnati program, after capturing two straight Big East titles as he heads for "greener" pastures at Notre Dame. 

The trend is terrifying for a conference that has fought off negative press since some of their bigger name schools bolted for the ACC earlier this decade. 

While three schools have lost their leaders, three others have been able to hang on to their coaches.

Connecticut coach Randy Edsall has stayed in Storrs despite interest from his alma mater Syracuse and recent consideration for the Notre Dame job. Jim Leavitt from South Florida has been the only coach the school has ever known and seems content in Tampa. Rutger's coach Greg Schiano has also remained with his school, despite interest for recent high profile openings at Miami and Michigan. 

The bad news is that none of these teams have played in the BCS, and none carry the tradition close to that of a Pittsburgh or West Virginia. 

Competing with the nation's elite will continue to be a challenge, but the conference must retain Edsall, Leavitt, and Schiano as they build consistent winners at their respective schools. The continued resurgence of Pittsburgh, coupled with the usually reliable West Virginia, should continue to give the conference national name recognition. 

However, the key may lie with the conference's newest additions. Charlie Strong and Doug Marrone are two young coaches who may have the spark to send Louisville and Syracuse straight up the standings in the not too distant future. 

The Big East has survived the recent departures of Petrino and Rodriguez, but if the post-Kelly years are to be fruitful, a new coach and possibly a new school must separate itself from the pack.


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