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NCF Nation: Big East green day 090317

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

As we wrap up our St. Patrick's Day green theme today, it's time to talk about the green that's most important to us all: money.

Cash is king, and though the Big East hasn't gotten quite as caught up in the astronomical arms race as leagues such as the SEC, how you spend often correlates to how much you win.

Here's a look at the best/worst spent green in the Big East, from top to bottom.

Best

Brian Kelly's salary: Kelly got a raise after the 2007 season that guaranteed him between $1.2 million and $1.35 million for five years. He's about to sign a new one-year extension that will likely increase his pay more. So far, he's been worth every penny to Cincinnati.

West Virginia's assistants: The Mountaineers saved money on the switch from Rich Rodriguez ($1.7 million annual salary) to Bill Stewart ($800,000). Much of the savings went to increasing the pay of the assistants, including a $400,000 per-year deal for associate head coach/recruiting coordinator Doc Holliday and a big raise for defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. Holliday led a recruiting effort that landed one of West Virginia's highest-rated classes ever on signing day, while Casteel continues to command one of the league's best defenses.

Randy Edsall's contract: Connecticut was in a tizzy recently over basketball coach Jim Calhoun's response to an activist's question about his salary. Edsall is paid handsomely, too, earning more than $1.3 million annually. But as the architect of the Huskies' program and one of the best pure coaches in the Big East or anywhere else, Edsall need not give a dime back.

Questionable

Jim Leavitt's deal: Before the 2008 season, South Florida gave Leavitt a seven-year, $12.6 million contract that made him the Big East's highest-paid coach. There's no doubt that Leavitt earned his keep by elevating this program from scratch. But given the coach's sometimes erratic behavior, the Bulls' mediocre conference finishes and the school's lack of easily available cash, this contract has the potential to become an albatross down the line.

Louisville's stadium expansion: Adding on to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium seemed like a great idea during Louisville's Orange Bowl run. And eventually, the extra seats will only help the athletic department's bottom line. But given the apathy that has taken over the fan base, it's hard to imagine how the team will fill the extra space when the $70 million project is finished for the 2010 season.

Worst

Greg Robinson's buyout: Robinson still had a year left on his deal and was owed $1.1 million when he was fired by Syracuse. Because Syracuse is a private school and not subject to open records laws, exact details of his settlement are unknown. But whatever he got for his disastrous tenure with the Orange was too much.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

It's not easy being green. Especially in college football.

Experience is usually the name of the game in this sport, with the possible exception of a few skill positions like running back and receiver. Still, the team with the most talented upperclassmen is usually going to be a major contender.

With that in mind, and with green our day-long focus here on St. Patrick's Day, here's a quick look at the greenest units on each Big East team:

Cincinnati: Take your pick between the defensive line and linebackers, where no starters return from 2008.

• Connecticut: This is team with a lot of experience, but the receivers -- even the underperforming upperclassmen -- should all be considered green in the new, up-tempo offense.

Louisville: The biggest bunch of newbies are at quarterback, where there are four candidates for the job but not one who's seen any significant playing time at this level.

Pittsburgh: The running backs are all brand spanking new, thanks to the defection of LeSean McCoy and the graduation of Conredge Collins and LaRod Stephens-Howling.

Rutgers: The quarterbacks and the receivers are mostly without experience. At least they can learn together.

South Florida: Look no farther than the offensive line, where four of five starters need to be replaced.

Syracuse: Three of the Orange's top four safeties, including both starters, are gone off of last year's team.

West Virginia: On a mostly otherwise veteran team, the Mountaineers are breaking in three new starters on the offensive line.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

I've never really understood the phrase "luck of the Irish." The Irish people I know aren't especially lucky, and the one time I found a four-leaf clover as a kid, nothing magical happened.

I'm also not a big believer in luck in college football. I firmly believe you create your own luck by taking advantage of opportunities or minimizing mistakes.

Still, there are several players and/or teams that could use a fortunate bounce here or timely break there in 2009. Since it is St. Paddy's Day after all, let's call it the luck of the Irish (but not Notre Dame; that's a sensitive topic for most Big East fans).

Cincinnati's quarterbacks: It seemed like gremlins, not leprechauns, were after the Bearcats' signal callers in 2008. Three of them got hurt, and Ben Mauk had his appeal for an extra year denied. Cincinnati is due for a year of health from Tony Pike at the position.

Steve Kragthorpe, Louisville: Kragthorpe thought he was inheriting a pot of gold when he took the Louisville job in 2007. Instead, it's been more like a bowl of soggy Lucky Charms. You can argue over just how much he's responsible for the downgrade of the program, but there's no debating that he could use some luck this year with an undermanned team and a disgruntled fan base. Some luck in the health department for receiver Scott Long could help a lot, too.

Matt Grothe, South Florida: Again, you make your own luck, and clearly Grothe has been guilty of forcing passes into places he shouldn't have ventured. But if you watched closely last year, you saw that Grothe had several passes tipped or batted in the air for interceptions. He could benefit from some luck there, as well as some help in the running game for a change.

Syracuse: The Orange haven't been victims of bad luck lately as much as they have suffered from a lack of talent and coaching. Still, the team needs a few breaks this year to get the Doug Marrone era off to a good start, especially with a schedule that sees them opening with Minnesota, Penn State and Northwestern.

Adam Gunn, Pittsburgh: The senior linebacker broke his neck in the first half of the season opener on a freak helmet-to-helmet collision with teammate Scott McKillop. Now that's bad luck. After being granted a sixth year of eligibility, Gunn deserves a much better fate in 2009.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Our green day at ESPN.com continues, and we're not talking about the punk rock band. Actually, right now, a song by another band that became popular in the 1990s -- the Gin Blossoms -- would be appropriate.

Hey, jealousy.

Earlier we listed the things that make Big East teams green with envy when they look at schools within their own conference. Now it's time to examine what the Big East envies from other conferences.

(Cue Gin Blossoms).

The Big East is jealous of:

The attendance in the SEC, Big Ten and Big 12. Big East fans are passionate, but they can't come anywhere near matching the way other leagues put fannies in seats. The SEC and Big Ten each had two schools average more than 100,000 fans per home game last season, while Texas drew an average of more than 98,000. The top Big East draw was West Virginia, which attracted a little more than 58,000 per home game. You could put the home crowds together from Cincinnati, Louisville and Syracuse and not reach some of the attendance figures from the other leagues. And, of course, more fans in the stands means more money.

The Pac-10's scheduling. The Big East doesn't really want to expand to 12 teams and have one of those phony conference title games. But the fact is, an eight-team league makes scheduling a headache because each school has to find five nonconference games. And it's even worse when it's your year to have just three league home games instead of four. The Pac-10 plays nine league games, giving schools at least four and sometimes five guaranteed home draws and putting far less pressure on finding nonconference opponents.

The SEC's respect. Granted, the SEC has earned respect of late by winning the last three BCS titles. But even its lowest-performing members get a pass simply for playing in the mighty league. It doesn't matter when West Virginia beats Georgia or South Florida wins at Auburn. The SEC is still viewed as the king and the Big East is seen mostly as a pauper.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

It's green day here at ESPN.com.

Whether you're full-blooded Irish or only part Irish or just Irish on St. Patrick's Day, chances are you're wearing something green today.

What's Irish about the Big East? Only one team -- South Florida -- wears green. Only one coach -- Cincinnati's Brian Kelly -- has obvious Irish ancestry. Heck, Courtney Greene doesn't even play in the league anymore.

Still, there are times when each team gets green while looking at their conference neighbor. As in, green with envy. Here's what makes each Big East school turn the color of a clover:

Cincinnati: The Bearcats are jealous of Louisville's Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. While Nippert Stadium is a throwback, on-campus gem, it doesn't provide the revenue-generating luxury boxes and club seats that fellow urban campus school Louisville enjoys.

Connecticut: Overachievers they are, but the Huskies envy South Florida's natural recruiting base. The Nutmeg State typically produces fewer D-I prospects than one big Sunshine State county.

Louisville: The Cardinals envy the way Cincinnati hired a new coach and saw him immediately post double-digit season victory totals and win two Big East coach of the year trophies. Steve Kragthorpe was hired just a month after Kelly, but his transition hasn't worked nearly as well.

Pittsburgh: The Panthers are jealous of neighbor West Virginia's recent bowl success. Pitt hasn't won a bowl game since 2002 and hasn't scored a postseason point since 2004.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights wish they had the state-wide support that West Virginia relishes. Everyone from the governor down seems invested in the Mountaineers' football program success, while Rutgers fights for support in some New Jersey quarters.

South Florida: The Bulls are envious of the deep-pocketed alumni at places like Syracuse and West Virginia because, for all their recent success, their athletic department isn't swimming in cash.

Syracuse: The Orange long for the weather that southern Big East schools live under. It's not easy convincing recruits to come so far north, even with an indoor stadium.

West Virginia: The Mountaineers are jealous of the media market surrounding Rutgers. West Virginia fans always feel overlooked by the national press, while the Scarlet Knights have easy access to the New York area outlets.

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