Where does Big East fit in future BCS?

April, 24, 2012
4/24/12
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The BCS as we know it is set to change.

How it changes remains up in the air, as another round of discussions on the future of the BCS are set to resume in South Florida this week. But what seems almost certain is a radical shift that could have huge ramifications on the Big East.

I am not talking about the addition of a playoff.

I am talking about the loss of automatic qualifying status.

Imagine this nightmare scenario -- not only does the Big East lose a guaranteed spot in the BCS every year, it loses a portion of its incoming teams to boot. Which is the scarier proposition?

It is no secret that AQ designation for the so-called six top leagues in the nation has been on the chopping block for several months now, as ideas have been bandied about toward improving the college football postseason.

Let us not kid ourselves. The Big East has been one of the biggest benefactors of AQ status since its inception in 1998, especially of late. Three times in the last five seasons, the Big East had the lowest-ranked conference champion of the six AQ leagues. Three times in the last four seasons, the Big East representative had three or more losses. The ACC is the only other league that has had multiple teams with three or more losses make it to BCS games in the same span.

UConn would never have made a BCS game in 2010 without AQ status. You could argue the same for West Virginia last season. The Mountaineers were ranked No. 23 in the final BCS standings after going 9-3, with an unsightly loss to Syracuse on its ledger. Nationally, folks may have forgotten about the way West Virginia had to fight back to get into the BCS, because the Mountaineers so impressively and thoroughly dumped Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl.

But the fact is over the last two seasons, UConn was unranked and West Virginia was in the bottom of the Top 25. And the league finished with tri-champions in the last two seasons as well, another mark against a conference that has not had a team win a national championship since Miami in 2001. The Big East and ACC are the only two leagues that have not played for a national championship since the BCS expanded to five games in the 2006 season.

It is not hard to imagine that BCS games would look elsewhere if they no longer had to take automatic qualifiers. The three lowest-rated BCS games since 1999 involve Big East teams -- the 2012 Orange Bowl between West Virginia and Clemson; the 2009 Orange Bowl between Virginia Tech and Cincinnati; and the 2011 Fiesta Bowl between UConn and Oklahoma. Look at those years -- proof again that recent history has been unkind to the Big East.

But I have not gotten to what could be the scariest part of all. If AQ status is stripped all together, what happens to schools set to join the league in 2013? After all, Boise State has been on a mission to be a part of an automatic qualifying conference. It is a huge reason the Broncos decided to leave the Mountain West for the Big East, despite having to split up its athletic programs and being nowhere near the East Coast.

If staying where they are proves to be as valuable as leaving for the Big East, would Boise State re-consider? Would San Diego State, which joined the Big East in a similar move of convenience? Remember, TCU was able to leave the Big East without a waiting period. Incoming schools are not subject to a waiting period, either, if they change their minds before joining in 2013.

So the Big East could very well be thrown into flux once again, depending on the outcome of the new-and-improved BCS. That is obviously the worst-case scenario. Boise State and San Diego State stand to benefit greatly in the Big East, with more national exposure and more money. They have pledged their word.

Commissioner John Marinatto has declined comment on the BCS, but he does not have to say anything for all of us to realize this is a crucial time for the league.

The BCS will look a whole lot different in 2014. That may be enough to impact where the Big East stands.

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