Coaches defend Big East

August, 31, 2009
8/31/09
2:15
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett


Today brought this season's first Big East coaches' teleconference, and one of the hot topics was the league's failure to get any teams into either preseason Top 25. Not surprisingly, the coaches defended the conference, though some said they understood the reasons behind the rankings.

"I think there are teams we have in our conference that should have been and could have been in the Top 25," Connecticut coach Randy Edsall said. "What happened in our league is, we had a lot of very good players who had graduated. I think people make their polls based on that.

"That's why, to me, there's not a lot of stock you should put in those preseason polls. Whether they should really have one, I don't know. It draws a lot of writing and talk and controversy about it."

Edsall said he declined to vote in the coaches' poll this year because he doesn't have time to watch every team. He said he doesn't think any polls should come out until Oct. 1, when voters have had a chance to judge teams based on this season's results instead of in the past.

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart recited the usual list of Big East talking points -- three wins in the last four BCS games, a 12-4 bowl record in the past 16 postseason games and a nonconference winning percentage of more than 75 percent. Stewart, as he has in the past, called the Big East the "black-and-blue league."

"I can't tell you why we get hammered," he said. "I guess everyone thinks we're a basketball league. They're full of baloney."

Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said he was not shocked but "a little surprised" that the league got shut out of the Top 25. He said he thought maybe Rutgers, which won seven straight to close out 2008, or even his own team were among those who deserved to be ranked.

"A lot of it has to do with perception and traditions of programs," he said. "We're establishing our program. It's not like we can harken back to our national championship days. A lot of it is, there are new teams that [are] really blazing a trail for their own kind of identity, so we're still a work in progress on that part of it.

"We build our reputation by taking it year to year. NFL scouts know they'd better come in and watch Big East teams because we've got a lot of good NFL players. So if we have the respect of NFL teams out there and we've got the respect of other teams and other conferences we play against, then to me, at the end of the day, that's probably more important than what other people think about us."

The coaches know that the preseason poll doesn't really have any effect on where they'll end up, and they predict that the league will do just fine this year.

"I would be concerned if it was the end of the season, maybe," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Fortunately, we've got 12 football games to play and I think that's a good thing. We have plenty of opportunities to go out and show people the type of football we play."

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