Tag:Big East Expansion
Posted on: September 27, 2011 7:04 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 7:11 pm
 

USF President: Big East looking to other states

Posted by Chip Patterson

South Florida president Judy Grenshaft was speaking to Florida legislators on Tuesday when she was questioned directly about the school's reported "blocking" of UCF as a new member for the Big East. Grenshaft began vehemently denying the reports, and offered her own update on the league's "aggressive" efforts to replace Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

"I am not stopping any university from coming in," Grenshaft explained. "What is happening is the league, or the conference, now is looking at schools and they have looked very much at schools that are not in any of the states that are represented by the Big East schools right now. The ones that they're looking at right now, they do not sit in any state that the Big East schools are currently in."

What it appears Grenshaft is trying to say, is that the conference is focused on expanding their footprint beyond the current reach. Or maybe she's trying to say there is a gentleman/gentlewoman agreement amongst the university leaders to not add a school from a state currently occupied by a conference members, similar to the SEC.

Whatever she was trying to say, she didn't do a very good job of conveying the message clearly.

However if the conference is looking at schools that are not currently in a Big East-occupied state, it would fall right in line with the report from CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy that Navy and Air Force were close to joining before the recent ACC exodus. It is still believed that the two service academies would be first choices for the Big East's football expansion, and there is currently no Big East team in Maryland or Colorado.

If her statements regarding the potential candidates for Big East expansion are true, it would rule out UCF. It would also rule out Houston if she's counting TCU as part of the Big East footprint, and it would rule out Villanova and/or Temple if she's counting Pittsburgh as a "current" member. Such a stipulation would be good news for a school like East Carolina, who recently applied for membership and has been reaching out to local leaders for help their cause.



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Posted on: September 22, 2011 1:06 pm
 

East Carolina interest in Big East nothing new

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Wasting no time attempting to get their foot in the door left open by Pitt and Syracuse, East Carolina announced Wednesday they had applied for membership in the Big East. From a statement by ECU athletic director Terry Holland:
"East Carolina University will always maintain a proactive approach in regards to positioning itself for future success, and the fluidity of current conference realignment possibilities is no exception."

"While we have formalized our interest in Big East Conference membership as a viable option, ECU will remain focused on competing at the highest level through the efforts of Conference USA."
Openly announcing that you've applied to a different conference is a curious definition of "remaining focused" on succeeding in Conference USA, we'd argue, and when we say "openly" we mean it. Contrast the continued (open) secrecy of, say, West Virginia's attempt to join the ACC or SEC with e-mailing 50 different media members the news of your application before the Big East has even had a chance to give it a serious thought -- it arrived the same day ECU announced they'd put it in the mail -- and you'll see how badly the Pirates want to be taken as a serious candidate for Big East expansion.

But this is nothing new for the Greenville, N.C. school. Back in 2008, the Hartford Courant reported that ECU officials would be willing to make a stunning number of concessions if the Big East would give them their big break at the BCS level.

Among the offers allegedly on the table: that ECU would forgo entirely their share of Big East revenue on a "trial basis," so that conference revenues for the res tof the league remained constant; forgoing any shared BCS bowl revenue until the Pirates made a BCS bowl themselves; provide its own television contract so as not to interfere with the league's existing deal; guaranteeing the sale of 2,500 tickets to their Big East away games; and possibly more.

"We would agree to all of that and others," a "prominent ECU supporter" told the Courant at the time. "Our partnership could be described as a 'hand-in' partnership rather than a 'hand-out' partnership. We wouldn't be asking for anything except the opportunity to prove ourselves as good and productive partners of the eight institutions playing Division I-A football."

Would the Pirates still be as desperate today? With the Big East in a position of lesser strength and stability, then-Pirate head coach Skip Holtz now at South Florida, and the economy making finances more tricky for football programs outside the BCS, it seems far less likely ECU administrators would be willing to make quite that big a gamble on a league with so many question marks still to be answered.

But it nonetheless goes to show that Wednesday's application announcement isn't the first time the Pirates have attempted to beat down the Big East's door. And if the conference once again passes over the Pirates (this time in favor of teams like Navy and Air Force), expect ECU to try again whenever the opportunity presents itself again.

For more on Conference Realignment 2011, follow our RapidReports on the subject by clicking here.

Posted on: September 21, 2011 2:11 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 2:53 pm
 

WVU AD Luck: Big East puts together 'strategy'

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

With the league under siege following the surprise defections of Pitt and Syracuse, the Big East's presidents and athletic directors met in New York Tuesday night to plan the future of the conference. CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy has all the pertinent details, including the potential for a revival of Navy or Air Force as possible football-only members

Following the meeting, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck released the following statement:

"President [James P.] Clements and I represented West Virginia University at last night's Big East meeting in New York. 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.

"As I stated before, WVU is an excellent flagship, land-grant University, with national-caliber athletic and academic programs. We are, and will remain, a national player in college athletics.

"The conference office will coordinate any further discussion on this issue."

From a conference solidarity perspective, that sure beats Luck's previous statement on the topic, in which the Big East was most conspicuous only by its absence. That Luck is willing to discuss (and, one would assume, contribute to) the league's "strategy" to "recruit" new programs is a sign that for the time being, WVU is giving the Big East its best shot.

But that still doesn't mean that if the SEC or ACC decided to change its tune and listen to the Mountaineers' overtures for membership, WVU wouldn't pack its bags in a heartbeat. (As would any team in WVU's current position, of course, as the Panthers and Orange so comprehensively proved.) Note that Luck's new statement still doesn't bother to commit the school to the Big East for any length of time or in any fashion. It doesn't promote the Big East's "bright future" or "way forward" or any of the other buzzwords typically used in this situation to indicate that the Mountaineers are happy campers in their current digs.

Rest assured, WVU is still looking for a way out. But until that way out emerges, Luck and Clements will no doubt do their best with an awkward situation.
Posted on: September 18, 2011 2:45 am
 

What I learned from the Big East (Sept. 17)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1. The Big East lost big time on Saturday, and never saw it coming. Big East commissioner John Marinatto sat down in Byrd Stadium on Saturday to watch West Virginia take on Maryland. When he made the arrangements to attend the game, I bet he didn't know that he would be in an ACC stadium while being informed of reports Pittsburgh and Syracuse are leaving for that very conference. When reached for comment about the reports, Marinatto had none. Based on reports from the stadium, the commissioner never saw it coming.

If true, it is incredibly embarrassing for the league office and not a great sign for the league members. TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte already expressed his concerns regarding the shifts in conference alignment, and the departure of two teams has led to league officials reaching out to current Big 12 members. It's possible that if Oklahoma and Texas leave the Big 12, the remaining members (likely that Oklahoma State would follow OU, possible Texas Tech follows Texas) could fold in with the remaining members of the Big East.

From a conference perspective, league officials needed to decide whether they wanted to play offense or defense in realignment. Texas A&M started the process, but the power move was made on Saturday when the Big East lost two more schools to the ACC - bringing the tally to five schools in a decade. Syracuse was a founding member of the conference, and Pittsburgh had become a perennial contender in football and basketball. The Big East only added TCU as their offensive move, and were completely unprepared for Saturday's news defensively. The conference only has a $5 million exit fee, as opposed to the recently approved $20 million exit fee for the ACC (unanimously voted on last week by the school presidents). The Big East lost two schools, and a lot of leverage in conference realignment. Now John Marinatto must scramble, and make efforts to secure TCU's interest in the conference as well as develop a plan to replace the departed universities. Ironically, the conference went 4-2 on Saturday. Only Pittsburgh and Syracuse picked up losses.

2. Give West Virginia the ball and flip a coin, if it's heads they'll score. The Mountaineers finally got a ground game going in the 37-31 win at Maryland on Saturday, with Andrew Buie, Vernard Roberts, and Shawne Alston combining for 107 yards on 25 attempts. The numbers aren't fantastic, but it is an upgrade from where the rushing attack was heading into College Park. Head coach Dana Holgorsen mentioned that teams were daring West Virginia's offense to run the ball, and if they couldn't make it a threat it would be a weakness moving forward.

Instead of the run setting up the pass, the pass sets up the run in Morgantown. The mere presence of a rushing threat completes an already efficient West Virginia offense. On the season the Mountaineers have scored on 17 of 31 drives uninterrupted by the end of a half. Give West Virginia the ball, there's more than a 50% chance that Geno Smith will methodically march down the field and turn the possession into points on the scoreboard. With West Virginia's secondary causing all kinds of trouble for 2010 ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O'Brien, you have to feel good about the state of West Virginia's offense. Of course, we reach this conclusion one week before the Mountaineers face LSU's defense. I believe they present just a little bit of a different threat than the Terps.

3. USF does not get caught "playing to their competition." - The Bulls' offense scored less than 20 points on five different occasions in 2010. I'm willing to bet it doesn't happen more than twice in 2011, if even that. South Florida refused to play down to their Sun Belt opponents on Saturday, lighting up the scoreboard in the 70-17 victory. The blowout comes on the heels of a 37-7 route of Ball State, where BJ Daniels really started to get the Bulls' offense clicking. Everything was moving in full gear against the Rattlers, with Daniels setting a career-high for the second week in a row tossing for 382 yards and four touchdowns. USF scored on eight of their first ten drives, and also featured the breakout of Colorado transfer Darrell Scott. Scott put up career numbers as well with 146 yards rushing, 84 yards receiving, and four total touchdowns. The Notre Dame win felt like it more of a Irish loss at the time, but the sloppy, rain-delayed victory might have been the spark to kick off a potentially memorable season for the young program.

4. Pittsburgh's defense has to improve second half performance. A huge red flag went up last weekend, when the Panthers allowed a blatantly inferior Maine squad climb back into the game in the fourth quarter. The Black Bears did score their final touchdown with three seconds remaining, resulting in a misleading six-point victory, but the it was concerning nonetheless. The trend of poor second half defense finally caught up with the Panthers against Iowa on Saturday, resulting in a 31-27 loss.

Kevin Harper's 24-yard field goal in the fourth quarter gave Pitt a seemingly safe 27-10 lead. Then this touted 3-4 defense sat back and allowed James Vandenberg to go to work on the secondary. Iowa's offense put up 201 of their 475 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter, sending the Panthers packing with no answers for their poor play. The Panthers will get one more non-conference game to fix these issues before kicking off the Big East schedule against South Florida at home. Unfortunately for the Panthers, next week's opponent is a much-improved Notre Dame squad fresh off a confidence-building victory against Michigan State.

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Posted on: July 12, 2011 10:45 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2011 12:07 am
 

With UT-Arlington addition, where does WAC stand?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

It is, by many accounts, all but a foregone conclusion: This Thursday, University of Texas-Arlington Mavericks will join the WAC in all sports but football. Their addition gives the venerable-but-reeling league 10 members total but still only seven for the 2012-13 football season.

UTA won't make it eight. The Mavericks gave up football in 1985 and, according to the Texas board of regents' agenda, "UT-Arlington’s invitation is not conditioned on starting a football program.” So why are we mentioning this development in this space rather than leaving it to our sister Eye on College Basketball blog?* Because UTA's addition nevertheless has the potential to dramatically reshape the reeling WAC's identity as a football conference -- either for the better, or the (even) worse.

A breakdown of both scenarios:

SCENARIO 1: Maybe the Mavericks haven't been interested in football before. But WAC membership might change the equation, thanks first to the bump in television money and exposure, and secondly to the natural rivalries UTA would enjoy with fellow FBS start-ups UT-San Antonio and Texas State. The Mercury-News's Jon Wilner reported this week that UTA "believes there’s money to be made in the FBS and in the WAC."

If the Mavericks do decide to take the plunge, Wilner outlines a possible dream future for the WAC. With three different guaranteed opponents in nearby Texas, Louisiana Tech (and its potentially wandering eyes) would be mollified; North Texas might look at the number of Texas brethen available in the WAC (not to mention the Bulldogs) and jump ship. The WAC would then be able to bring aboard another basketball-only member to reach 12 schools total, while still offering its nine football programs a clean eight-game round robin. And if commisioner Karl Benson could lure away a prominent FCS program like Montana, so much the better.

Unfortunately for the WAC, that scenario isn't nearly as likely as ...

SCENARIO 2: UTA might have better prospects for a hypothetical football program than before, but that doesn't mean the Mavericks are rushing into anything. "I don’t have any indication they have plans to add football," the commissioner of the Mavericks' former home, Tom Burnett of the Southland, told the San Antonio Express-News. "If they do decide that, it’s just a bonus for the WAC." The Express-News added that a second source indicated UTA football "has not been seriously discussed."

If that's the case, Benson may have some unhappy campers on his hands. Both Utah State and Louisiana Tech have made no secret of their desire for new football-playing members sooner rather than later, with the geographically outlying Bulldogs specifically asking for one closer to their Ruston home. If Benson can't convince the Mavericks to add football or find a Central Time Zone football school by the 2013 season -- and we're not sure if there's any realistic quality candidates out there, unless you count other Southland question marks like Sam Houston State -- Tech could decide to cut their losses and head for the Sun Belt. At that point, with just six football schools, the WAC would be on the edge of unraveling.

The good news for Benson is that Tech athletic director Bruce Van De Velde expressed hope this week for the WAC and downplayed the Sun Bell speculation, citing -- of all things -- the Sun Belt's academics. Like the Bulldog fan quoted in that Shreveport Times article, Van De Velde is likely holding out hope that the Big East's expansion dominoes could open a spot for Tech in Conference USA.

If the Big East looks somewhere besides UCF (or the other C-USA schools rumored to be under consideration), though, Van De Velde's hand may be forced; will his school really want to remain in a conference with weaker competition, less exposure and substantially greater travel costs?

Though it remains to be seen, we're skeptical. Thursday's UT-Arlington addition could be the start of the WAC's new Division I foothold ... or the final flailings of a league destined for the FBS history bin.

*Which you really ought to be reading as well, and don't just take our word for it.



Posted on: May 23, 2011 12:58 pm
Edited on: May 23, 2011 2:49 pm
 

Patterson, Frogs thinking big with move East

By Brett McMurphy
CBSSports.com Senior Writer

PONTE VERDA BEACH, Fla. – Being that this was his first official Big East function, you’ll have to excuse TCU coach Gary Patterson for not realizing shorts, and not long pants, are the preferred attire in this beach town.

Still, it wasn’t Patterson’s slacks, but the bling on his right ring finger that stood out the most – the Horned Frogs’ 2011 Rose Bowl championship ring.

And by joining the Big East in 2012, Patterson believes the Horned Frogs will have an easier road to make even more BCS bowls. Leaving the Mountain West after this season for the Big East will be a huge boost for the Horned Frogs in recruiting.

“[In the Mountain West] we weren’t an [automatic] qualifying conference and [now we can] get a chance to get into a BCS game without going undefeated,” Patterson said. “And then for us, the TV sets [the Big East reaches 30 percent of the nation’s television sets] by being able to go east.

“That’s the same reason the Dallas Cowboys did it. Geographically it doesn’t make any difference to come to [play] Philadelphia. That’s how they became – quote – ‘America’s Team’ because they became seen so much. We’ll see how that works.”

So far last year’s announcement of TCU moving to the Big East has already made an impact.

“I think there will be [excitement moving to the Big East],” Patterson said. “The excitement is the new recruiting class, they’re the ones the Big East will have an effect on and maybe the class coming in. We haven’t really talked about it. Our whole thing is getting a chance to win one more championship in the league we’re in.”

Patterson said he didn’t think anyone was considering them “a lame duck” in their final season in the Mountain West.

“You have to play the games,” Patterson said. “Schedule-wise, except for the Boise game [which was changed from a TCU home game to a Boise State home game by the league] … the Mountain West could have played it anyway you wanted to as far as the league was concerned.

“We don’t get a return game one way or another [with the other league opponents]. The only thing I’m worried about is making sure our stadium is ready for the first home game.”

Patterson said attending the Big East’s spring meetings gave him a chance to become more familiar with how the league operates.

“My whole premise was to get to know people [here], getting the lay of the ground work,” Patterson said. “I’m still loyal to the Mountain West. I get a chance to meet people and understand [how the league works] when we come into the league next spring.”

Posted on: April 29, 2011 12:11 pm
 

USF, UCF to renew "War on I-4"?

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

UCF and USF may share a big chunk of middle Florida, but it hasn't seemed like they've wanted to share a lot else of late; between the Bulls' public distaste for scheduling the Knights to UCF's not-so-subtle insinuation USF was trying to keep them out of the Big East, tensions between the two athletic programs have unquestionably risen since the teams' four-year gridiron series ended in 2008.

But tensions or no, that series may be back on again if UCF head coach George O'Leary is to be believed. Per the Orlando Sentinel and other outlets, O'Leary told a Tampa-area UCF alumni gathering that the Knights and Bulls would meet again for a two-year series starting "in 2014 or 2015," with an eye (well, UCF's eye, anyway) on continuing the series past those two years.

We wouldn't suggest UCF and USF start booking their hotels for Tampa or Orlando just yet, though, and not just because of that whole "those hotels might not even be standing in 2014" thing. An alumni gathering isn't the most formal of venues to make such a key announcement, suggesting that whatever O'Leary may have said, not all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed just yet. A UCF spokesperson declined to confirm Thursday night if any agreement had been reached between the two schools.

The guess here is that the programs are close to signing a scheduling contract, and that O'Leary wanted to go ahead and give his team's fans some good news -- in particular as regards theur standing vis a vis USF -- as they wait on a potential expansion invite from the Big East. 

But we're also guessing that until an announcement is made in a more official venue, with the ink on the contract, neither side should assume the "War on I-4" is back on just yet.

Posted on: April 26, 2011 1:19 pm
 

Hey Big East: UCF leads C-USA in revenue

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

UCF has sworn they'll be part of of a BCS conference one day, a day that could come sooner rather than later if the Big East and Villanova can't get on the same page (and the alleged backroom efforts of USF to keep the Knights outside the league fall on deaf ears). But whatever argument the Knights might like to use, there's one that's always talked louder than any others: money.

And fortunately for the Knights, they've got it, as Forbes.com contributor Kristi Dosh illustrates in this report on the 2009-2010 financial picture in C onference USA. UCF leads the way in the conference with more than $15 million in football revenue, a number greater than several BCS schools and two Big East programs--UConn and Cincinnati.

Dosh points out that UCF's football profit wasn't necessarily a result of overwhelming fan interest so much as UCF's simple overwhelming size; at 56,000 students, UCF is the second-largest school in the country, and all those student fees and alumni donations add up. The Knights also boosted their bottom line by not immediately re-investing all their grosses back into the program, as the school's football spending (at approximately $8.5 million) lags in the middle of the conference.

But if anything, those details probably only emphasize why the Big East might take an interest. If the Knights can turn such a substantial profit even without a horde of ticket sales, what happens when interest both on- and off-campus receives the kind of spike that comes with BCS competition? If UCF's athletic department can turn out a C-USA champion and BCS top-25 team even while keeping their spending relatively in check, how good could they be with the budget boost that comes with a distribution check from a BCS league?

The Big East may still let some other conference find that out, of course. Adding UCF means adding yet another basketball team to an already over-swollen 18-team (hoops-centric) conference, and unless Villanova joins up as well, it still wouldn't give the conference the necessary 12 for a lucrative championship game. There's a reason the conference is taking its time in expanding beyond its TCU addition.

But there's also little doubt UCF's friendly bottom line will give the league's decision-makers some food for thought.

One other note on Dosh's report: it would be tempting to look at SMU's conference-leading spending and assume that explains their quantum leap forward under June Jones and C-USA division championship last year. But the next two schools on that list -- Rice and Memphis --suggest that it's not as easy as simply throwing money at the problem.



 
 
 
 
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