Did West Virginia Sound the Big East’s Death Knell?

Overview

In 1979, the Big East Conference was formed, with Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, and Syracuse joining up with Boston College, Connecticut, Holy Cross, and Seton Hall to form a basketball-minded conference.

1991 saw the rise of the Big East, for football, with Miami (FL), Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Temple, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia joining up with Syracuse and Boston College, eight members.

The conference landscapes changed in 2004, with Connecticut playing football and Miami (FL) and Virginia Tech leaving for the ACC, leaving the conference with seven members.

2005 was a sea change year for the Big East, with Louisville, South Florida, and Cincinnati joined the conference, Boston College left for the ACC, and Temple was asked to leave the conference, bringing the conference back to eight teams. The Big East seemed, for once, to be a stable conference.

With the 2010 realignment occurring, the Big East decided to jump in and benefit, hoping to add the Dallas-Fort Worth media market by inviting TCU to join (bringing the total to nine teams).  Since that time, everything has been in free fall for the Big East, TCU changed its mind and decided to join the Big 12 (decreasing the proposed total back to eight) and Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced intentions to depart, having been accepted into the ACC (decreasing proposed total to six). Today, West Virginia announced intentions to leave the Big East and join the Big 12 (decreasing proposed total to five).

The Take

College football enthusiasts and conference realignment fans alike have wondered when the collapse of the Big East would occur. It occurs with West Virginia leaving the Big East. The Big East is now in talks to merge with Conference USA and Mountain West to create a super conference of 28 to 32 teams in hopes of maintaining a BCS bid.

Face it, Big East fans, your conference is done; toast. It will continue to be a viable basketball conference, because even with the aforementioned subtractions, the basketball conference can survive, due to the pure depth of the league. Boise State expressed concerns about conference stability, Navy, Air Force, Houston, SMU, Temple, and Villanova were also mentioned. Outside of bringing in more rivalries, only the Pennsylvania schools and Navy are remotely located in the confines of the Big East. Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida are now left scrambling .

Adding more schools will not ensure a BCS bid. ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC-12, and SEC will continue to have BCS bowl bids. There is no reason to believe those conferences can’t continue to supply at least five of the 10 BCS bowl bids, with half of the bids being at large teams. Further, there is no reason to add an additional BCS conference – other potential conferences, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, and WAC do not warrant BCS level attention. A combined Conference USA/Mountain West/Big East wouldn’t, either.

The Plan?

The UNLV athletic director, Jim Livengood, envisioned a plan of four divisions of seven teams each, with a playoff then a conference championship to arrive at an automatic qualifier. Having more teams than two BCS conferences combined shouldn’t give you an automatic BCS bid, but alright, whatever, we’ll go with what he says as a basis for discussion. First, let’s figure out which teams Mr. Livengood means, when he says 28:

Mountain West (10): Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State*, Hawaii*, Nevada*, New Mexico, San Diego State, UNLV, and Wyoming.

Conference USA (12): East Carolina, Houston, Marshall, Memphis, Rice, SMU, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB, UCF, and UTEP.

Big East (5): Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers, and South Florida.

* Currently WAC members.

So that’s 27, assuming no one departs. The other team to bring it to 28? My guess is Navy. Some WAC members are also being mentioned for a 32 team proposal, that is Louisiana Tech, San Jose State, and Utah State. Temple appears to be the other team, in a 32 team proposal.

Assuming there are 28 teams, like Mr. Livengood says, I venture a Big East/Conference USA/Mountain West proposal looks like this* (with the distance in miles between divisional opponents listed):

Far West Boise State Fresno State Hawaii Nevada New Mexico San Diego State UNLV
Boise State

505

2836

337

780

748

522

Fresno State

505

2520

188

745

316

269

Hawaii

2836

2520

2569

3231

2617

2768

Nevada

337

188

2569

788

490

355

New Mexico

780

745

3231

788

623

477

San Diego State

748

316

2617

490

623

257

UNLV

522

269

2768

355

477

257

Mountain West Air Force Colorado State Houston Rice SMU UTEP Wyoming
Air Force

109

838

836

620

507

164

Colorado State

109

929

928

706

611

56

Houston

838

929

4

231

678

983

Rice

836

928

4

230

675

982

SMU

620

706

231

230

574

759

UTEP

507

611

678

675

574

660

Wyoming

164

56

983

982

759

660

Conference USA Memphis Southern Miss South Florida Tulane Tulsa UAB UCF
Memphis

264

660

356

343

211

684

Southern Miss

264

471

105

505

209

523

South Florida

660

471

479

967

460

91

Tulane

356

105

479

546

311

544

Tulsa

343

505

967

546

548

1005

UAB

211

209

460

311

548

476

UCF

684

523

91

544

1005

476

Big East Cincinnati Connecticut East Carolina Louisville Marshall Navy Rutgers
Cincinnati

652

463

93

123

431

543

Connecticut

652

496

738

568

281

129

East Carolina

463

496

498

341

238

374

Louisville

93

738

498

182

503

625

Marshall

123

568

341

182

322

449

Navy

431

281

238

503

322

151

Rutgers

543

129

374

625

449

151

* I’m using each of the conference names as a division and Far West for the remaining division.


Far West Rivalries

Boise State/Fresno State – Battle for the Milk Can

Boise State/Hawaii

Boise State/Nevada

Fresno State/Hawaii – Golden Screwdriver

Nevada/UNLV – Battle for Nevada


Mountain West Rivalries

Air Force/Colorado State  – Ram/Falcon Trophy

Colorado State/Wyoming – Border War

Houston/Rice – Bayou Bucket

Rice/SMU – Battle for the Mayor’s Cup

Mountain West Rivalries

Memphis/UAB – Battle for the Bones

Memphis/Southern Miss – Black and Blue Bowl

Southern Miss/Tulane – Battle for the Bell

South Florida/UCF – The War on I-4

Big East Rivalries

Cincinnati/Louisville – Battle for the Keg of Nails

Navy/Rutgers

The setup would also lend itself to bringing back in Rice, SMU, Tulsa, and UTEP, after those teams left the WAC (and Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii, and Nevada) in 2005.

Average wins for division, by year


Far West

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Average
Boise State

9

13

10

12

14

12

11.67

Fresno State

8

4

9

7

8

8

7.33

Hawaii

5

11

12

7

6

10

8.50

Nevada

9

8

6

7

8

13

8.50

New Mexico

6

6

9

4

1

1

4.50

San Diego State

5

3

4

2

4

9

4.50

UNLV

2

2

2

5

5

2

3.00

By year

6.29

6.71

7.43

6.29

6.57

7.86


Mountain West

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Average
Air Force

4

4

9

8

8

9

7.00

Colorado State

6

4

3

7

3

3

4.33

Houston

6

10

8

8

10

5

7.83

Rice

1

7

3

10

2

4

4.50

SMU

5

6

1

1

8

7

4.67

UTEP

8

5

4

5

4

6

5.33

Wyoming

4

6

5

4

7

3

4.83

By year

4.86

6.00

4.71

6.14

6.00

5.29


Conference USA

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Average
Memphis

7

2

7

6

2

1

4.17

Southern Miss

7

9

7

7

7

8

7.50

South Florida

6

9

9

8

8

8

8.00

Tulane

2

4

4

2

3

4

3.17

Tulsa

9

8

10

11

5

10

8.83

UAB

5

3

2

4

5

4

3.83

UCF

8

4

10

4

8

11

7.50

By year

6.29

5.57

7.00

6.00

5.43

6.57


Big East

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

Average
Cincinnati

4

8

10

11

12

4

8.17

Connecticut

5

4

9

8

8

8

7.00

East Carolina

5

7

8

9

9

6

7.33

Louisville

9

12

6

5

4

7

7.17

Marshall

4

5

3

4

7

5

4.67

Navy

8

9

8

8

10

9

8.67

Rutgers

7

11

8

8

9

4

7.83

By year

6.00

8.00

7.43

7.57

8.43

6.14


Rank of Teams by Average Wins


Rank

Team

Division

Average Wins

1

Boise State Far West

11.67

2

Tulsa Conference USA

8.83

3

Navy Big East

8.67

4

Hawaii Far West

8.50

5

Nevada Far West

8.50

6

Cincinnati Big East

8.17

7

South Florida Conference USA

8.00

8

Houston Mountain West

7.83

9

Rutgers Big East

7.83

10

Southern Miss Conference USA

7.50

11

UCF Conference USA

7.50

12

Fresno State Far West

7.33

13

East Carolina Big East

7.33

14

Louisville Big East

7.17

15

Air Force Mountain West

7.00

16

Connecticut Big East

7.00

17

UTEP Mountain West

5.33

18

Wyoming Mountain West

4.83

19

SMU Mountain West

4.67

20

Marshall Big East

4.67

21

New Mexico Far West

4.50

22

San Diego State Far West

4.50

23

Rice Mountain West

4.50

24

Colorado State Mountain West

4.33

25

Memphis Conference USA

4.17

26

UAB Conference USA

3.83

27

Tulane Conference USA

3.17

28

UNLV Far West

3.00

Average Wins

6.44

Far West

13.14285714

Mountain West

17.71428571

Conference USA

15.42857143

Big East

11.57142857


Overall, the divisions would be relatively equal, with the Big East edging out the Far West for the most competitive. The Mountain West and Conference USA have high ranking teams, but are brought down by at least two lower ranked teams.

Summary

A combination of three conferences into one probably doesn’t make the most sense, especially from a logistically and travel standpoint, let alone from an BCS automatic bid standpoint. But it is workable, and would create competitive divisions, preserve rivalries, and set up a unique playoff style format for a conference champion. Ultimately, this conference set up will likely lead to a conference split into two conferences, similar to the Mountain West/WAC split in 1999.

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