November 5, 2010

Roundtable: Who should the Big East add?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: Big East presidents have OK'd potentially adding two teams for a 10-member football conference. Your thoughts?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
Why stop at 10 teams? I know the Big East's already-huge basketball membership could create problems, but the Big East should look for a way to expand to 12 teams and stage a championship game. The Big East already plays the most mediocre brand of big-time college football, and to many, it has been surpassed by the Mountain West in overall strength. By adding TCU, you eliminate the MWC threat. And although adding TCU would seem like a logistical nightmare, it seems that the Big East has to accept that burden to add legitimacy. Does asking Villanova to move up from the FCS or adding UCF from Conference USA really make Big East football stronger? I don't think so. Frankly, I'd offer Notre Dame a sweetheart deal and make every concession they want, and also extend invitations to Army and Navy.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
I think it's a good way to improve what's the weakest automatic qualifying conference. But I don't think adding schools such as UCF, Temple, Marshall, Navy and Villanova would do much to enhance the Big East's footprint. And that's what it's all about in the ever-changing landscape of conference realignment. All of the aforementioned schools -- for the most part -- already sit within the TV territory of current Big East schools. To truly make the conference more attractive from a television standpoint, the Big East much stretch its boundaries by adding schools such as TCU, Houston, East Carolina and Memphis. While I think it would be easy to convince ECU and Memphis to join the Big East, it may be difficult to convince TCU and Houston to take the plunge in what would be a far-flung league. And those two schools would bring the most to the table in improving the Big East's profile.

David Fox's answer:
The Big East always will have problems with its eight-team football alignment. Scheduling five non-conference games is a mess. Coaches don't like having four conference road games and just three at home. And the small number of teams doesn't help the strength or image of the conference compared to other automatic-qualifying leagues. That said, I don't see many ideal expansion prospects out there beyond Notre Dame (not going to happen). So if the Big East is going to expand, it might as well go big and go for 12: Add TCU, UCF and Houston as football-only members and "promote" Villanova from the FCS and add a championship game. TCU/Houston and UCF/USF will never carry their respective states in fans or recruiting, but at least having pairs of teams as traveling partners and rivals makes a little sense. Suddenly, Texas and Florida wouldn't seem so far flung if the league had two programs in each state. And in TV negotiations, the Big East would be able to say it has at least a footprint, never mind how small, in major media markets in at least one sport.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
Evidently, the league would consider adding two more teams as football-only members, but I still wonder if that makes the league that much more relevant. This is a down season for the league, no question, but even in "up" seasons, the league is the weakest of the Big Six. Everyone says adding TCU, which has been surmised, would solve some of the football issues. But remember that from 1960 to 2000, the Horned Frogs were a national non-entity, going to just five bowls in that span. Is this program truly here to stay? And while adding TCU would mean adding the Dallas-Fort Worth TV market, how many folks in that market truly care about TCU? And just imagine the TV ratings in Dallas for the Big East game of the week involving Louisville and Syracuse. Would it even register? UCF, Memphis, Temple, East Carolina and Villanova also have been mentioned as possible football additions. Yawn. The league seems likely to add two teams, but in the long run, it's not going to raise the league's profile at all unless one of them is Notre Dame. And if Notre Dame said "no" to the Big Ten, why would it say "yes" to the Big East?

Steve Megargee's answer:
If the Big East wants to add two teams, TCU and UCF seem like the best fits. TCU would give the Big East the legitimate national power that the conference sorely lacks right now, while the Big East could provide the Horned Frogs with the promise that they could automatically qualify for a BCS bid by winning the league title. If the Big East offers, TCU would have to listen. It's not a great geographic fit, but it would be the best thing for TCU's program. UCF recently built a stadium and certainly has all the ingredients in place to emerge as an immediate contender in the Big East, much in the same way that USF made a quick rise as soon as it joined the conference. UCF-USF immediately would become of the Big East's fiercest rivalries. And having two Big East programs in Florida would make it easier for all Big East teams to recruit in the Sunshine State. Villanova frequently is mentioned as an expansion prospect because it already is a Big East member in other sports and won the FCS title last season, but I don't know how much of a competitive boost the Wildcats would provide to the conference because they'd have to make the transition to the FBS ranks.

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