The Big East in the BCS Debate continues!

July 21, 2009

Before we get to today’s debate, which promises to be interesting for both golf and sports fans, I want to point out a few media outlets who have extended our The Big East in the BCS Debate from last week.

First, Salt Lake Tribune columnist Lya Wodraska devoted some ink to putting the Big East-BCS debate in the context of other emerging conferences like the Mountain West which the Utah Utes belong to. She makes an excellent point that potential of a conference is something to take into account when assessing the current BCS landscape. Of the current non-BCS conferences the Mountain West certainly has earned the most respect with BYU, TCU, and Utah all achieving double digits wins in 2008. Check her column out.

Greg Auman, University of South Florida beat reporter for the St. Petersburg Times, also highlighted our Big East debate, in a different light (obviously). The general sense out of central Florida seems to be that the value of the Big East as a football conference is not getting enough credit, considering the realigned conference from a few years ago has shown average results, not below average. Auman’s post, and blog, are worth a read.

Last, ESPN sports talk radio personality Matt McClusky had our very own Bleacher Fan on his show last week to discuss the verdict in the Big East-BCS debate. McClusky’s show is based out of upstate New York, the heart of Big East country, and even he had to admit the Big East is treading on thin football ice.

The debate continues! Voting is still enabled on it, so make your voice heard through a vote or a comment!

The Big East in the BCS Debate – Big East, or Big Least?

July 15, 2009

Read the debate intro, Loyal Homer’s argument that the BCS does not deserve an automatic BCS bowl bid, and Bleacher Fan’s argument that it does.

Well, nothing brings out passion like a nice college football debate, and this debate is no different. Even before the first argument was published, folks were all “atwitter” about whether this was a valid debate topic. When reviewing the Big East’s record from recent seasons, it’s obviously a debate topic.

This is a difficult verdict, because the debaters concentrated on one year, 2008, by which to judge the Big East’s contribution to the BCS and college football. This approach further reinforces the “what have you done for me lately” mentality that plagues American sports culture, and college football fandom. So, for this verdict, I’ll acknowledge recent history, then add in some historical context.

Bleacher Fan brought up last year’s bowl season, claiming that the Big East was impressive because 75 percent of their football schools (six) made bowl games. I completely reject this as a valid metric for two reasons. First, there are 34 – 34!!! – bowl games on the docket for the 2009-2010 season. That means 68 teams need to be “eligible” for bowl games. Plus, even Conference USA had 50 percent of their teams bowl eligible. It is not a stretch to discern that many of the teams who played in bowl games year were not deserving. Second, the ACC had 10 bowl teams last year, and many of the Big East defenders who have commented here and on our Twitter timeline are claiming that the Big East is not as bad as the ACC. However, “they suck, so we can suck to” is not a valid argument.

Last season did not yield many quality non-conference wins for the Big East, either. The only true quality win by anyone in the Big East was South Florida’s win over then-ranked #11 Kansas. A good win. But, compare that to the other top teams in the conference:

  • Cincinnati: The conference champ lost to ACC winner Virginia Tech and #5 ranked Oklahoma, their only two opportunities for quality non-conference wins all season.
  • Pittsburgh: Opened their season with a non-conference loss to Bowling Green and needed four overtimes to defeat a 3-9 Notre Dame team.
  • West Virginia: Their only quality non-conference opportunities were Colorado and East Carolina… both of which they lost.
  • Rutgers: Another Big East bowl eligible team lost to Fresno State, North Carolina (their only quality non-conference opportunities) and even lost to Navy.

Contrast that mess with what a non-automatic BCS bid conference like the Mountain West did. Their champ, Utah, defeated an Oregon State team that the week prior beat #1 in the country Southern Cal, and defeated Alabama – handily – in a BCS bowl game. Ouch to the Big East. Not a good recent record for the conference to make a stand.

But, it can’t all be about 2008… though it’s hard to deny that the Big East is not just following a trend.

Some history. How has the Big East done through the history of the BCS (read: quality non-conference games). Here’s the list since the inception of the BCS in 1998:

  • 1998 Conference Champ: Syracuse (8-3) loses to Florida 31-10 in the Orange Bowl. 0-1
  • 1999 Conference Champ: Virginia Tech (now ACC) (11-0) loses to Florida State 46-29 in the Fiesta Bowl. 0-2
  • 2000 Conference Champ: Miami (now ACC) (10-1) beats Florida 37-20 in the Sugar Bowl. 1-2
  • 2001 Conference Champ: Miami (now ACC) (11-0) beat Nebraska 37-14 in the Rose Bowl. 2-2
  • 2002 Conference Champ: Miami (now ACC) (12-0) loses to Ohio State 31-24 in the Fiesta Bowl. 2-3
  • 2003 Conference Champ: Miami (now ACC) (10-2) beats Florida State 16-14 in the Orange Bowl. 3-3
  • 2004 Conference Champ: Pittsburgh (8-3) loses to Utah 35-7 in the Fiesta Bowl. 3-4
  • 2005 Conference Champ: West Virginia (10-1) beat Georgia 38-35 in the Sugar Bowl. 4-4
  • 2006 Conference Champ: Louisville (11-1) beats Wake Forest 24-13 in the Orange Bowl. 5-4
  • 2007 Conference Champ: West Virginia (10-2) beats Oklahoma 48-28 in the Fiesta Bowl. 6-4
  • 2008 Conference Champ: Cincinnati (11-3) loses to Virginia Tech 20-7 in the Orange Bowl. 6-5

One national championship is pretty good. But, the Big East has never – NEVER – received an at-large BCS bid for one of their teams. To contrast, the Big 10 (seven), SEC (five), Big 12 (four), Independent (three), Pac-10 (two), WAC (two), and Mountain West (two) have all received them. The only other conference with an at-large goose egg is the ACC.

And the overall 6-5 historical record is average, and far below average when considering that three of those wins (including the championship) belong to a program that is no longer in the conference.

The resume is unimpressive from the Big East, both recent history and a deeper dive into the BCS. Is it enough to jettison the conference from the ranks of the BCS automatic qualifiers? Yes. So I must award the victory to…


While Bleacher Fan offered many, many excuses for the Big East, Loyal Homer had one valid point that stood out: Attendance figures are dwindling for Big East football programs. Though a small but steady slide is apparent, recent performances, combined with a poor history against the best competition in college football, has not won fans back. Attendance is important because it translates to the strength –and willingness to travel – in the diehard fan base. Additionally, losing the heart and soul of Big East football tradition to the ACC has completely reversed expectations for Big East football. When Connecticut does well (starting last season 5-0) the collective national voice is “surprised.” There is no team that is expected to dominate year in and year out – a respect requisite in college football.

When the BCS charter expires in 2014, the committee must take a long look at whether the Big East belongs among the ranks of the automatic bids. According to the arguments presented here, they don’t.


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The Big East in the BCS Debate – What Have You Done For Me Lately? A Lot, Actually…

July 14, 2009

Read the debate intro and Loyal Homer’s argument that the Big East is not good enough to warrant an automatic BCS bowl big.

Let me clear the air right now with a very definitive statement – The Big East is one of the six best conferences in college football.

First, a note to Loyal Homer: One team does not a conference make! As an SEC fan, you should have known better than to argue otherwise. The SEC is not considered a conference favorite because of just one team. Instead, the success of LSU, Florida, and a cheating Alabama have propelled the SEC into the recent limelight.

To place the worth of the entire Big East on the shoulders of their preseason favorite, who just didn’t live up to expectations last season, is a misguided argument (although West Virginia still finished the season at 9-4 and ranked in the top 25 – not exactly a disappointment).

By your standards, I guess you would also argue that the SEC should not be allowed an automatic BCS bid. Their top preseason team last year, the Georgia Bulldogs, was ranked number one in the nation, but did not live up to expectations. Instead, they finished outside of the top 10 with a meager 10-3 record, only one game better than the “pitiful” Mountaineers (who, by the way, had a new head coach and lost star running back Steve Slaton).

The question today is not about the preseason favorite within the Big East. It is about whether or not the Big East is still one of college football’s top SIX conferences, and whether or not it still deserves an automatic BCS bid every year.

Sports Geek, in raising the question, brings up several interesting points, and claims they point to a “fall from grace” for the Big East. Those points include the departures of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College to the ACC, only to be replaced by the University of South Florida, Cincinnati, and Louisville.

With all due respect to our esteemed judge for this debate… Sports Geek could not be more wrong.

To begin, it is laughable to say that the Big East misses Miami right now! Consider that ‘The U’ (since leaving the Big East) has not finished better than 7-6 since 2005, actually posted a losing record in 2007, and lost to the only top 25 team they played last year (a blow-out against the Florida Gators). That is not exactly a boast-worthy performance, and I’m sure the ACC isn’t hanging any Hurricane performances on their refrigerator right now.

As for the Big East’s replacements, let’s consider what they’ve done which actually ADDS to the Big East’s credibility:

  • South Florida – In 2008, they defeated #13 Kansas, and were undefeated in inter-conference play. They finished the season at 8-5, which is a better record than Miami and is just slightly less impressive than the results of Boston College (9-5) and Virginia Tech (10-4).
  • Louisville – In 2006, Louisville finished the season ranked in the top 10 with a record of 12-1, their only loss coming by way of a then-undefeated Rutgers, also a Big East team.
  • Cincinnati – Finished in the top 25 in 2007 AND 2008, posting records of 10-3 and 11-3 respectively.

I would consider each of those performances upgrades over Miami!

As for the rest of the Big East, here are some other points to consider:

  • Bowl Eligibility – Out of the eight teams in the conference, six of them were bowl eligible in 2008! That’s 75% of the conference! No other BCS-conference can make that statement, as the Pac-10 (50% made bowl appearances), Big XII (58%), Big Ten (63%), SEC (67%), and ACC (67%) all had much lower participation rates!
  • Bowl Performances – The Big East turned in a very impressive bowl record of 4-2 last year! That’s a greater win percentage than the ACC (2-6), the Big Ten (1-6), and the Big XII (4-3). In fact, only the Pac-10 (5-0) and SEC (6-2) turned in better bowl performances than the Big East last year.

The fact remains that the Big East produced a greater percentage of winning records than any other conference in college football, and performed better than all but two conferences in bowl play.

Based on those statements, a non-BCS conference in college football cannot argue they are more deserving of an automatic BCS bid than the Big East.

On the other hand, perhaps the ACC should be a little worried!!!

The Big East in the BCS Debate – No Guarantees for the Big East

July 14, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher’s Fan’s argument that the Big East still deserves an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game.

This is sure to be a popular topic with our friends in the Northeast!

Sports Geek poses the question in today’s debate about whether or not the Big East is still deserving of its guaranteed BCS bid. I most definitely say NO!

Let’s take a look at last year (2008).

West Virginia came into the season as the team to beat, despite the fact that head coach Rich Rodriguez left for the supposedly greener pastures in Michigan. However, with the momentum from the 48-28 trouncing of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, and the return of Pat White, things were still looking up in Morgantown. (On a side note, does a victory over Oklahoma in a BCS game really mean anything these days?)

But the Mountaineers struggled all season, and limped to a 9-4 record with a loss to an 8-5 North Carolina team in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

I will give Cincinnati credit. They won the Big East by going 11-3 – even with a loss to an average Virginia Tech team in the Orange Bowl – and finished the season ranked in the top 20. Head coach Brian Kelly has that team on the rise, and Sports Geek and I can stake claim to witnessing Kelly dominate Division II football earlier this decade when he was coaching Grand Valley State. But, winning the Big East in football is like Memphis winning Conference USA in basketball or like beating your two-year-old sister in a game of Madden on PlayStation 3. What have you really accomplished?

I would discuss Pittsburgh some, but year in and year out – especially since Dave Wannstedt came back to “save” the program – they have been inconsistent showing they are not yet ready for the big stage. They couldn’t even fill up Heinz Field for the season opener against Bowling Green (who they lost to, by the way). Only 45,063 showed up for the season opener. For the record, “Ketchup Field” has a capacity of 65,050.

Truth be told, I think the Big East is still living off of just one good performance this entire decade, the 2006 Sugar Bowl. West Virginia knocked off heavy favorite Georgia 38-35 in Atlanta (it wasn’t in New Orleans that year due to Hurricane Katrina) behind outstanding performances from White and running back Steve Slaton.

In 2007, West Virginia actually had a shot to play for the national championship. All the Mountaineers had to do was beat rival Pitt in the Backyard Brawl, at home in Morgantown, and it was likely they would play in the BCS Championship game. But, with all the pressure on them, West Virginia folded and lost 13-9. If WVU wins that game, and was able to win the championship that year, we would not be debating this issue.

The fact is that the Big East isn’t ready for prime time and that’s obvious from their recent history. I’m not even sure enough people in Big East country even care, outside of Morgantown. As far as attendance goes for the entire conference, the numbers don’t lie. The average attendance at a Big East game in 2008 was 42,995, with West Virginia averaging 58,085 to lead the conference. Four schools (Louisville, Connecticut, Syracuse, and Cincinnati) averaged less than 40,000 fans at each game. Folks, that’s terrible, and borderline embarrassing.

The Big East is undeserving of a BCS bid, and I think everyone outside of the Northeast agrees with me.

The Big East in the BCS Debate – Is the Big East Deserving of an Automatic Bid?

July 14, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan’s argument that the Big East does deserve an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game, and Loyal Homer’s argument that the conference does not.

Does everyone remember their SAT analogies? Let’s try one. Orange is to fruit what lettuce is to… ? Yup, vegetables. Very good. Here’s another one. The Big East Conference is to football what Crystal Pepsi is to cola. Er, was.

Recent history has not been kind to Big East football. It all began in 2004 when the University of Miami and Virginia Tech decided to leave the confines of the Big East for greener pastures in the Atlanta Coast Conference. Once a proud conference boasting 16 teams (only eight participate in football) and consistent college football relevance, the migration of those two powerhouses, followed by solid Boston College in 2005, has ripped the conference’s football guts out. The Big East was forced to turn to football poor Conference USA to make up for the lost teams, bringing in Louisville, University of South Florida, and Cincinnati.

The mark of a great football team – and by extension a great conference – is how well they perform in pressure-filled road games. In each of the last four years, only one football program in the entire conference has a winning road record. One. That team is West Virginia with an impressive 11-3 road record (though it remains to be seen how well they’ll do without Pat White under center). In fact, only four schools (five seasons in total) have had just one winning season in the last four years. Unimpressive.

There are little talking points that media guide aficionados will use to claim the Big East has maintained its football relevance in 2009. Items like the fact that Pittsburgh is returning 15 starters. But, Cincinnati is returning only one starter on defense (and they are not returning their defensive coordinator, either). Syracuse has had 14 scholarship players defect since new coach Doug Marrone arrived, forcing many freshman and inexperienced players into high profile roles in the coming season. I could go on…

While the past four years have been tough, signs point to another struggle this year for Big East football.

Which brings us today’s question: Does the Big East still deserve an automatic conference BCS bowl bid?

Bleacher Fan will argue that the Big East is still one of the six best college football conferences and deserving of their automatic BCS bowl bid.

Loyal Homer will argue that the BCS has lost their legitimate right to an automatic conference BCS bowl bid.

Apologies to our friends in upstate New York and Big East country. But, this is worth debating only because of how the Big East has played in the last four years. Even you have to admit they’ve been awful.

Good luck to the debaters. I hope neither of you “pulls a Big East.”


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