It’s becoming harder and harder to continue to be a fan of college sports and perhaps more difficult to follow the ever-changing landscape of the supposed amateur athletics. By the time this story hits the printing press, the Big East could be even smaller. Rutgers is flirting with the Big 10 in the conference’s continued march toward making the first part of its name accurate and the second part even more obsolete.
The Big 10, which had 11 teams from 1990 to 2011, added a 12th last year and could be adding Maryland and Rutgers. The Atlantic Coast Conference, where Maryland currently resides, will be adding more teams next year anyway, but it’s the Big East that will take yet another hit.
Remember in 2005 when the Bearcats announced they’d finally reached the big time of college sports because they’d joined the Big East? That was true, at least for a while. Earlier last week, before the possible defections became public, the Big East announced it would be a second-tier football school — and remember, when it comes to the business of college sports, football rules all. While the Big East champion currently has an automatic berth into the big-money Bowl Championship Series bowls, under the new playoff structure the Big East is one of “the group of five” with the Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt and Mid-American Conference. Only the highest-rated team out of those five conferences gets a bid to one of the big-money games, though likely not part of the four-team playoff .
“This gives us a chance,” Big East commissioner Mike Aresco told reporters after the meeting announcing the group of five.
That’s the spin. And it’s true — seven of the last eight years, teams in the Big East (or who will be in the Big East — thanks Boise State) would have qualified.
But it’s also a step down from when the Big East had a guaranteed seat at the table. While we all knew that wasn’t going to last forever, it’s still a massive step down.
As for the future? The Big 12 (which currently has 10 teams) could come shopping in the Big East, but it’s much more likely that it’s for Louisville, not Cincinnati.
For now, the best chance for the Bearcats to thrive is for a strong Big East, but that’s tougher and tougher to see as bigger conferences continue to poach the conference, picking off parts until there’s no recognizable features left on the carcass.
Thinking Out Loud
The Big East also announced it will play in two six-team divisions next season, although that could change if Rutgers wants to make a quick exit — and it probably would if the Big 10 talks go well. However, Navy is joining in 2014, and the league has said it would like to add another team to make it 14, although with the opening it may stay put at 12. UC would be in the East Division, along with most of the current members. The West Division will have Boise State, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State, Southern Methodist University and Temple. The good news is the plan is for the football championship game to be played at a team’s home site — that will save the Big East the kind of embarrassment of empty seats at a neutral site that we’ve seen in the ACC and MAC, among others. … We’re going to have a college football playoff starting in 2014, but I wonder how that may hurt the excitement we saw late on Nov. 17, when the No. 1 and No. 2 teams fell within an hour of each other. Of course, you read about neither in your Sunday Enquirer, even though both games were done before midnight. And, I’m sure that’s only going to get better when the presses are moved out of town, or at least that’s what they tell us. I’m always amazed at how newspapers try to give people less of a reason to read them rather than more. ... The recent “debate” over the American League Most Valuable Player was all that’s wrong with our current sports climate. A difference of opinion, and two defendable sides, turned into name calling from both sides. If you missed it, the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera became the first Triple Crown winner since 1967, leading the American League in batting average, home runs and RBI. Meanwhile, Angels rookie Mike Trout put together one of the finest rookie seasons ever, and according to at least one controversial stat (WAR — wins above replacement), one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. Instead of a debate over the merits of either player, it became a name-calling exchange between the luddite Cabrera supporters and the “stat geeks” backing Trout. In the end, Cabrera won the award, and some celebrated a win for the “traditionalists” and a loss for advanced statistics. As a card-carrying member of Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), I was part of Team Trout, but that doesn’t mean I believed Cabrera was an egregious choice. It’s just not the one I’d make.