Big East must refocus priorities

January, 16, 2013
1/16/13
5:30
PM ET

"Go West, Big East!"

Never made sense, did it?

So let us all hope the Big East comes to its senses now that Boise State and San Diego State are staying where they belong, in a geographically friendly conference home for all their sports. Their agreement to join the Big East was never practical. It was never convenient. It was not done to expand the Big East footprint from East to West, no matter that starry-eyed -- or was it bleary-eyed? -- talk of staggered Saturday start times from noon to 10 p.m. ET.

It was done as a last-ditch effort to stay nationally relevant with the biggest program outside the power conferences joining up (Boise State) and a travel partner to come along for the ride.

From the moment they agreed to join the Big East as football-only members, folks wondered how long this disjointed marriage would last. Now we have an answer. They did not even make it to their first football season together.

And in the end, that is good for the Big East.

What this league must do is re-focus its efforts and try to become a regionalized brand again, with Texas as its western-most boundary. Look, the Big East has already lost its battle to have a seat at the big boy table in the future playoff structure. It will not get the same TV dollars as the other big conferences. So it should come to terms with what it is -- and that is a league that has an opportunity to play its way into the national spotlight with a lineup it can help cultivate.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
Chris Faytok/The Star-Ledger via US PresswireTeddy Bridgewater and Louisville are an example of what Big East membership can do for a program.
You know, the way it did the last time expansion significantly altered membership.

Back in 2005, the Big East world was on the verge of ending because Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College all left. The changes this time around are much more radical, as the Big East is left with just one founding football member -- Temple, which was just reinstated after a seven-year absence.

But the point is that Big East membership helped Louisville and Cincinnati elevate their programs even higher. Each team has made two BCS appearances since joining the Big East -- Louisville in 2006 and 2012, and Cincinnati in 2008 and 2009. That might have never happened if they were still in Conference USA. That league has never had a BCS representative.

UConn, which joined the Big East for football in 2005 as well, also made a BCS appearance in 2010. Incoming members Houston, UCF and SMU have all made appearances in the Conference USA title game over the past three seasons. So they are ready to contend immediately. East Carolina, slated to join in 2014, has won Conference USA titles as well. Navy, scheduled to join in 2015, is a perennial bowl team.

There is no going back to the way things used to be. That means a new reality, of course. But the Big East does not have to look too far to see how membership in this league can impact a program. Louisville is going to be a preseason Top 10 team in 2013 with a Heisman candidate in Teddy Bridgewater. In 2014, the Cards will more than likely be playing their first game in the ACC.

Know where they were 10 years ago? Playing Miami (Ohio) in the GMAC Bowl.

Cincinnati just posted its fifth 10-win season in the past six years. Know how many 10-win seasons the Bearcats had before joining the Big East? One, in 1951.

There is plenty to build on, even without Boise State and San Diego State. Here's hoping the Big East realizes it does not need to go West to get where it wants to go.

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