The TCU to the Big East Debate Verdict

December 9, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Loyal Homer.

TCU is making the move to the Big East. And after having read the arguments by both Sports Geek and Loyal Homer, and I have come to the following conclusion – I LOVE the move (and am awarding the verdict to Loyal Homer).

Sure, there are plenty of reasons why they should not leave the Mountain West for the Big East:

  • This will create additional strain for the University’s smaller athletic programs
  • There is not a regional connection between TCU and the rest of the Big East programs
  • TCU is neither “big”, nor is it “east”

But none of those reasons can outweigh the very simple, extremely positive fact that TCU gets to take a HUGE step up in class.

Who cares that their new neighborhood might be further away? It is a MUCH nicer neighborhood.

Instead of being grouped with the likes of New Mexico, Colorado State, and Wyoming, TCU is now discussed in the same conversations as Notre Dame, West Virginia, Georgetown, and Pitt. Instead of hoping for an invitation to face Navy in the Poinsettia Bowl, the program can earn an invitation to face the SEC in the Compass Bowl, or the Big XII in the Pinstripe Bowl. Instead of hoping for a scrap FROM the BCS tables (which will only be granted if they perform PERFECTLY during the regular season), TCU is now AT the BCS table. Instead of hoping for an automatic bid to the basketball championships, the basketball program is a part of a conference that last season was awarded EIGHT at-large invitations.

Oh yeah, and a great deal more money is available with the move.

I sympathize with the TCU Women’s Rifle Team, Sports Geek, I really do. They will be required to travel all the way across the country on multiple occasions, now, just to shoot guns for their inter-conference matchups. But to turn down an opportunity that will literally generate millions in additional revenue for the school’s two largest athletic programs (which will also trickle down and positively impact EVERY athletic program at the school), and will likely grant the school exposure to a better class of recruits in every program, all because of ten girls in a Title IX program that likely generates NOTHING for the University, is absurd.

This is a case where the sacrifice of the individual is necessary for the benefit of the masses.

And as Loyal Homer points out, ESPN features many of the Big East’s matchups in football and basketball. Where can you watch the Mountain West? On Versus (if you are lucky).

TCU is beholden to nothing but itself. The athletic department has an obligation to pursue opportunities that are best for the University, and joining a well-respected athletic conference that is guaranteed a BCS invitation in football – and one that is regarded as the very best in basketball – is too good of an opportunity to pass up simply because it will require some extra travel time.

Enjoy competing with the big boys (and girls), Horned Frogs! This is the chance you have been hoping for!

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The 2000-2010 Best NCAAB Tournament Coach Debate… Living in the Wild Wild West

March 24, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Sports Geek.

Oh, what a difference a weekend can make.

This time last week, basketball fans everywhere were filling out brackets. Basketball know-it-alls around the country were confidently making their can’t-miss picks for the tournaments. You could hear them at water-coolers everywhere:

“The Big East is the best conference going into the tournament! They have eight teams, and any one of them can make a run!”

“Kansas is far and away the favorite to take this tournament!”

“The Pac-10 teams are ALL down this year!”

Then the weekend happened. The only sound heard in living rooms and sports bars alike was that of brackets being busted.

Of the eight Big East “monsters” that were all seeded as favorites in their matchups, only four survived the first round, with two more falling before the Sweet Sixteen. Kansas, the number one seed overall, was bounced by mid-major Northern Iowa, and the Pac-10’s only two entrants. California and Washington turned in some very exciting performances with the 11th seeded Huskies reaching the Sweet Sixteen over top-ten ranked New Mexico.

NOBODY could have guessed the carnage that so many underdogs would have wreaked on the 2010 NCAA Basketball championships. In fact, reports that, out of the 4.78 million entries in their online bracket challenge, there were none (that’s ZERO) that had predicted all of the Sweet Sixteen teams (Editor’s note: One dude has a perfect bracket on CBS), and only four people out of the nearly five millions even picked 15 out of 16 correct (but there were more than 6,000 who went 0 for 16).

With the upheaval of the past weekend, the question must be re-asked: Which region of the 2010 March Madness Tournament is NOW the toughest to win?

In looking at the sixteen teams still alive and vying for the national crown, the four which pose the toughest collection of competition for each other live in the Wild West.

Each region claims strong teams, and each also boasts a great story, from Cornell’s run in the east to Northern Iowa’s toppling of the giant in the Midwest. The West, though, possesses the strongest collection of FOUR teams still remaining.

With all due respect to programs such as Northern Iowa, St. Mary’s, Cornell, or even Washington, their success has been surprising, and by all accounts should be short-lived. As much as I would love to see each of those teams advance deeper into this tournament, the EXPECTED result (although I will acknowledge that this tournament has provided anything BUT expected results) is that their 15 minutes is quickly drawing to a close now that they are facing progressively more talented competition.

Because of those EXPECTED outcomes, each of those double-digit seeded teams creates a seemingly weaker spot in the “Road to the Final Four.” Realistically, if I had to choose between Syracuse or St. Mary’s as my opponent, I would pick St. Mary’s.

Each of the regions in the March Madness tournament holds at least one of those double-digit seeded “weaker” team in it except for one – the West Region. The West may have two teams from mid-major conferences remaining (Xavier and Butler), but these teams are mid-major in name only. Both have proven all season long (and consistently over several seasons) that they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Like Gonzaga and Memphis (at least while John Calipari was coaching on Beale Street), these two programs are worthy of power-conference status.

Occupying the remaining spots in this region are top-seeded Syracuse and second-seeded Kansas State.

Syracuse was the biggest surprise story of the regular season. They began their 2009-2010 campaign unranked before playing all the way up to the top spot in the country, ultimately finishing the season in the third spot behind Kentucky and Kansas. As for Kansas State, they probably would have been a number one seed in the tournament had it not been for three losses against Kansas (who are now out of the picture and no longer a threat to the Wildcats).

In a seed-by-seed comparison, the West poses the toughest overall road to the regional championship games. Along with the East, the West is the only region with both of their top two seeds still alive, and they are the ONLY region that does not include at least one double-digit seeded team. All four of the teams in the West finished 2010 ranked in the top-25, and all four of those teams have a LEGITIMATE shot at playing in Indianapolis.

While all 16 teams remaining deserve recognition for their accomplishments this season, the toughest challenge still lies ahead for the four teams playing in Salt Lake City this weekend!

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The NCAA Sleeper in a Major Conference Debate – Bob Huggins Could FINALLY Reach the Mountaintop!

November 16, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument and Loyal Homer’s arguments about which college basketball team is a sleeper to win their major conference.

As far as college basketball conferences are concerned, the Big East turned out to be the Big Letdown last March. Of the 16 teams in the conference, 12 went on to play in the postseason. The Big East also became the first conference in NCAA history to send FIVE different teams to the Sweet Sixteen in the same season, and claimed three of the four top seeds in the NCAA Championship Tournament (Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and Louisville). All told, it was one of the most dominant regular seasons for an entire conference in college basketball history.

Unfortunately, things did not finish as well as they began for the conference. Despite the fact that the Big East claimed 75% of the top seeds, 31% of the Sweet Sixteen, and 50% of the Final Four, the conference was unable to place a single team in the final game of EITHER the NCAA National Championship OR the NIT tournament. It was a lackluster finish to what could have been a historic season.

Championship disappointments aside, the Big East is home to some of the most dominant programs in college basketball. Although the ACC is generally considered the cream of the college basketball crop in most seasons, the Big East has proven that its programs can be just as dominant as Duke and North Carolina. With legendary coaches like Rick Pitino, Jim Calhoun, and Jim Boeheim, the Big East has a great deal of recruiting power within the conference.

There is another coach in the Big East, however, that has not received the same accolades as his colleagues – West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins.

Sure, Huggins has put together winning teams, including a very impressive run at Cincinnati where his Bearcats managed to reach the NCAA Tournament in 14 consecutive years. Unlike his legendary counterparts, though, Huggins’ career has been defined by his failures, not his successes. Off the court, Huggins has had to deal with criticism stemming from rules violations, player arrests, and a DUI conviction in 2004. On the court, Huggins has developed a reputation for being a choke artist. For example, several of his Cincinnati teams had come into the NCAA tournament with Final Four (or even national championship) expectations. Huggins only managed to actually REACH the Final Four once.

This season should be very different for Huggins and the Mountaineers.

Following the success of Big East teams last season, many players from the conference decided it was time to move on to the NBA, including Earl Clark and Terrence Williams of Louisville, Hasheem Thabeet and A.J. Price of UConn, and Sam Young and DeJuan Blair from Pittsbrugh. With all due respect to those programs, it is unrealistic to expect the same performance from those schools again in 2009.

West Virginia, on the other hand, is returning a great deal of talent to the court, primarily in senior forward Da’Sean Butler. Butler, who was the team’s leading scorer last season, is expected to provide points for the Mountaineers, especially with the loss of guard Alex Ruoff (who averaged nearly 16 points per game), and the oft-injured or suspended Joe Mazzulla.

Butler will not be alone on the court, either. Despite rumors that he would be entering the NBA early, forward Devin Ebanks (a likely first-round draft choice in the NBA) made the decision to return to West Virginia for his sophomore season after leading the Mountaineers in rebounding during his freshman season. Guard Casey Mitchell, a JUCO transfer from Chipola College, also brings a 20 points per game average onto the court. Mitchell, who broke a 40-year old JUCO record by sinking 25 consecutive free throws last year, was named the NJCAA Player of the Year and first team All-American last season.

Unlike previous seasons where Bob Huggins and his team have begun with lofty expectations only to stumble down the stretch, this time around could be different for the Mountaineers. Although the team may be lacking in history, pedigree, or reputation, West Virginia certainly has an abundance of talent and experience in a season where many of the usual Big East contenders will be without both!

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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.


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