The Big East announced on Thursday that they wanted to expand to 14 teams by 2015. Commissioner Mike Aresco told reporters that he wanted his conference to reach 14 football schools.
During the last off-season’s conference carousel, the Big East flirted with extinction. Pitt and Syracuse announced they will leave for the ACC next year and West Virginia bolted to the Big 12. In response, the Big East looked westward and picked up San Diego State, Boise State, SMU, Houston, Memphis, and UCF for the 2013 season and Navy in 2014. This is in addition to Temple rejoining this year.
Confused by the totals? That leaves the Big East with 13 teams in 2014. That also leaves the Big East with an odd-number team scheduling and revenue quandary.
Added to their headaches is the looming potential departure of UConn. The conference wants to be at 14 football schools to attain ‘super conference’ status.
When speaking with reporters, Aresco wouldn’t say which schools would be sought but did say he would avoid plucking another conference’s team. That leaves a very small pool. There are not many schools big enough to help launch a four-time zone network and also good enough to compete on the field. This will lead to a lot of speculation.
Here are the top candidates and their pros and cons:
Would the Irish be willing to accept the shackles of a conference? Not likely. Until the Big East can prove it can provide the same revenue that Notre Dame can on its own, the Irish will pass.
With the collapse of the Mountain West, Air Force needs a new home. The Big East has shown a willingness to take teams west of the Mississippi. The big obstacle is that Air Force has already turned them down once.
The Cougars are a big, successful football program with a strong tradition (anyone still remember 1984?). This past year, BYU went independent making the decision to show games on the LDS church network. When a school’s priorities are less concerned with making money from commercials, there is not a big chance they will tie themselves to a troubled program.
Despite having a small media market, the Golden Eagles will help bite into the football rich south joining UCF as the only schools below the Mason-Dixon line. To their credit, Southern Miss has a streak of 18 straight winning seasons including winning the Conference USA last year.
El Paso is a decent size media market, but doesn’t have a long history of quality football.
See New Mexico.
I had to look up where Marshall is located. Seriously. It is about time Marshall steps back up into the big time. Sadly, that is a poor reason to add them to the Big East.
Proud, strong tradition will come with Army. A Navy-Army rivalry will be stronger than ever. Like Air Force, they have a fan base that is spread over the country that could help boost any new cable network.
There have been rumors of the Pirates stepping up to a major but those rumors may be started by the Pirate faithful.
No matter who is chosen, the Big East will strengthen its foundation to survive as a football conference. It should also stop the tumultuous movement that defined college football recently.
Photo Credit: Getty Images