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.