- Andrea Adelson, College Football
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After months of stops and starts, haggling and convincing, number crunching and negotiating, the new and improved Big East is here.
Or should I say Big Country. Big East-West? Big USA?
In possibly the most preposterous conference realignment scenario we have seen yet, the Big East was forced to reach all the way to Idaho and California to save itself.
You thought Missouri to the SEC was a stretch? How about a school based a little more than 3,000 miles away from the Big East office in Providence, R.I.?
The Big East had little choice but to add Houston, SMU, Central Florida and football-only members Boise State and San Diego State. After Pitt, Syracuse, TCU and West Virginia bolted the conference, the league had to do something to remain viable. That meant stretching itself, making Boise State its No. 1 priority to help boost its football profile. Boise State needed a West partner -- hello, San Diego State.
None of this makes much geographical sense. There are no regional rivalries. There is no sense of brotherhood, of shared goals, of a common cause. Because the Big East was indeed a sinking ship in desperate need of a life preserver, it had to trade in the Backyard Brawl for some Red-Eye Rivalry.
Realignment forced its hand, along with the millions of dollars at stake and a coveted seat at the BCS table. But really, the Big East had a hand in this mess, too. After adding TCU last year, the Big East hemmed and hawed about adding additional members. Boise State was shot down as a viable candidate because it was too far away.
Then mass defections happened. All of a sudden, Boise State looked as good as Alabama.
These head-scratching moves do not answer any questions about the future of the Big East, not at all. What would make these 10 disparate universities band together to stick together? The first incarnation of the Big East failed. So did the second. How is the third any stronger than a conference that had Miami, Virginia Tech and West Virginia all on board?
Simply put, these moves are more of a stopgap measure and less of a stabilizing force. Once the conference seas start shifting again, you can bet some of the current members are going to want to jump as quickly as Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia and TCU did.
Think about it: Rutgers, Cincinnati, Louisville and Connecticut have gauged the interest of other conferences. According to the lawsuit West Virginia filed against the Big East to try and get out of the league for the 2012 season, representatives from those four schools "have been engaged in discussions with other sports conferences, including the ACC, SEC and Big Ten for the purpose of trying to obtain invitations to join these conferences and withdraw from the Big East."
Back in September, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said UConn was interested in joining the ACC should that league move to 16 teams. Louisville was involved in a bitter fight with West Virginia for the last opening into the Big 12, and even had Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) lobby on behalf of the school. West Virginia Senators Joe Manchin III and Jay Rockefeller blew gaskets when the West Virginia move was put on hold for a few days, believing McConnell's meddling had something to do with it.
Though Louisville lost the spot, the door does not appear to be totally closed to the Big 12. Interim commissioner Chuck Neinas has said the league's expansion committee "will continue to look at the landscape of college athletics and at some point will make a determination what they feel is the best size for the conference."
There also is the question about the future of the BCS. The Big East has taken a beating from a national perspective because it has sent teams in back-to-back years with three-plus losses to the BCS thanks to its status as an automatic qualifier.
The current configuration of the BCS ends after the 2013 season. Though the Big East has assured new members it will not lose its AQ status, the truth is that nobody knows whether AQ status will even exist beyond 2013. Discussions already have begun regarding changes, and BCS executive director Bill Hancock has said that everything is on the table. Given the controversy over the end to this season, there might be a push toward a plus-one model.
Neinas has come out in support of a plus-one, after No. 3 Oklahoma State fell short of the Allstate BCS National Championship Game. SEC commissioner Mike Slive and ACC commissioner John Swofford have supported the idea in the past, but Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany remains against the notion.
The one certainty about conference realignment is that there is no certainty, and there is no loyalty. There are no more regional ties, or rivalries to be saved, or conference kumbaya moments. How can any of that bode well for the future of the new-and-improved Big East?
Andrea Adelson is a national college football blogger for ESPN.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Because the Big East was indeed a sinking ship in desperate need of a life preserver, it had to trade in the Backyard Brawl for some Red-Eye Rivalry. Simply put, these moves are more of a stopgap measure and less of a stabilizing force.