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Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Perception of Big East reality to recruits

By Tom Luginbill

Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program in the country, and every conference has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to landing top prospects. In the start of a weeklong series, we'll examine the BCS conferences, plus Notre Dame, to find each's strength, the biggest obstacle each faces and the overall view of the conference. The Big East is up today.

Biggest obstacle: Perception. Although the Big East is an automatic qualifying conference for a BCS bowl game (for now), it is not perceived the same way by prospective recruits as the other five BCS conferences. The departure of Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia did not help its cause, either. Adding quality mid-major programs with more of a national layout has not enhanced the image. You can claim you are a BCS conference, but if the top players in the country don't buy it, there is a ceiling that will be tough to raise. With the departures and additions, this conference is perceived to be more of a glorified mid-major.
Charlie Strong
Louisville and Charlie Strong, fresh off a Sugar Bowl win, have been a Big East power, but now that they're leaving soon, others like USF and UCF will need to step up.
Biggest strength: New markets in talent-rich player pools. The Big East's new demographic should provide great opportunities for the likes of Houston and Memphis to have an edge with tweener prospects, who might be BCS-caliber players but are late bloomers and are passed on by the big boys. Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi also need to be fruitful conferencewide. Also, this conference is one of the few left that has the luxury of redshirting entire classes conferencewide for the most part. This develops depth and allows those late bloomers to blossom Boise-style.

Overall view of the conference: If perception is nine-tenths of reality, then the reality is that this conference's last remaining "powers" -- Rutgers and Louisville -- are moving on, as well. The view of this conference will draw more parallels to the WAC and Mountain West than it will to the ACC, which is its closest demographic competitor. UCF and USF need to become consistent 10- and 11-win teams, and Houston and Cincinnati must continue on their current arc to lend validity to the conference. Given this reality, it is unlikely the Big East will remain an automatic qualifier, a point that will become a recruiting tactic used by future competitors in pursuit of prospects.