The problem? It doesn’t have to be like this. The Big East is sitting on a potential goldmine. It still has football teams in large metro areas – NYC, Hartford/New Haven, Cincinnati, Tampa, Dallas and Louisville. Its basketball reach includes Chicago, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Providence and Washington, DC. Look at all these markets! Why can’t the Big East make this work?
It can…and here’s how.
Step 1: Invite Temple, UMass, UCF, Memphis and Houston to join.
The Big East needs to get to 12 football members yesterday. These are the teams they need. People are getting too caught up in how good teams are RIGHT NOW as opposed to what they could bring. Did anyone think Cincinnati was going to amount to anything? They’ve played in two BCS games. What was USF in 2005? Now it’s a perennial bowl team that has beaten Notre Dame, Miami and Florida State. These five make perfect sense:
Temple - Big city, pro stadium, great basketball team
UMass - USF potential, pro stadium, decent basketball, would eclipse BC in five years
UCF - USF potential, big city, recruiting advantage
Memphis - crappy football but big city and top notch, Big East level basketball
Houston - big city, very good football, decent basketball
Step 2: Split football in two divisions
The additions make splitting the Big East as easy endeavor. From here, you can copy almost everything the SEC has done (8 conference games, 5 intra-division, 3 inter-division) to strengthen football by keeping two regions together geographically.
Big East North: West Virginia, Cincinnati, Temple, UMass, UConn, Rutgers
Big East South: Houston, TCU, Louisville, Memphis, UCF, USF
The best part? The Big East could guarantee every league team at least one game in Texas and Florida. TEXAS AND FLORIDA! Hello recruiting advantage.
Step 3: Create rivalries on Thanksgiving weekend, title game first weekend in December in Yankee Stadium.
Talk about your no-brainers: a Big East Championship game from Yankee Stadium every December. Think that might draw some attention? Lock in rivalries on Thanksgiving weekend – harkening back to the good ol’ days – and let these rivalries grow.
Rivalries: West Virginia/Cincinnati, Temple/UMass, UConn/Rutgers, Houston/TCU, Louisville/Memphis, UCF/USF
Step 4: 20 team basketball league.
One of the complaints in the 16-team Big East was the unbalanced schedule – if you had to play UConn twice instead of DePaul twice, well, you weren’t happy. Eliminate that. 20 teams and everyone plays each other once. It’s not the old-school double round-robin but it’s still a true round-robin. Everyone plays everyone, no one complains and you get a true regular season champion.
Step 5: 20 team Big East tournament in MSG
The Big East tournament is one of the best things in college sports. Why not make it better? Let all 20 teams come to New York. The Big East ends its regular season mid-week before the start of ESPN’s Championship Week. The world won’t end. If anything, it will push some Big East conference games to December, driving up the value of that TV contract.
We move to a straight 16-team bracket – no stupid double byes. The tournament starts on Sunday with four play-in games to the bracket for the 13 seed vs. 20 seed, 14 vs. 19, 15 vs. 18 and 16 vs. 17. There’s a day off Monday. The tournament starts up again on Tuesday with seeds 1 through 4 playing their first round game. On Wednesday, seeds 5 through 8 play – if you’re a top 4 seed, the incentive is a day off and playing a team that already played a game on Sunday.
The schedule remains the same after that with quarterfinals Thursday, semifinals Friday and the final Saturday night. Tell me why this wouldn’t work.
Step 6: GET MONEY FROM COMCAST/NBC!!!
This is why the Big East turned down the billion dollars from ESPN. Comcast/NBC desperately wants college sports. They wanted the Pac-12 but failed. They need programming for its rebranded NBC Sports Network. They want to be a player. This is how they do that.
If the Big East gives them a 12-team football league with a Yankee Stadium title game, a 20-team basketball league and a week-long basketball tournament in Madison Square Garden…why wouldn’t they want this? You think NBC wouldn’t love to showcase these huge events a stone’s throw from 30 Rock? Not to mention the ratings of these big markets?
The Big East could give Comcast/NBC everything they want and more. The Big East tournament final would be the highest-rated show in Versus history. Or it could be a primetime showcase on NBC. The Big East title game for a BCS berth would get ratings – witness the insane rating that Cincinnati/Pittsburgh did in 2009 as a de facto Big East title game. There is potential here. Lots of it.
Don’t you think NBC would like to have a Big East football game to lead into Notre Dame? Wouldn’t they like to get their hands on a game like LSU at West Virginia?
Step 7: Get Notre Dame involved.
There are two indisputable facts right now about Notre Dame. 1) They are never going to join a conference for football. 2) They are a partner in the Big East.
For years, this has seemed to profit Notre Dame far more than the Big East. Well, if Notre Dame wants to house their Olympic sports in the Big East, the Big East needs to gain something. As of today, the Big East, frankly, has little to offer. But add an NBC contract, some NFL stadiums and voilà, we have something.
Notre Dame has been playing “neutral” site home games far away from home. Against Washington State in San Antonio, against Army in New York, against Maryland in Washington, DC. Well what if Notre Dame continued to plays these “neutral” site games…but as the “road” team? Look at the teams the Big East has added.
Notre Dame at Temple in Lincoln Financial Field
Notre Dame at UMass in Gillette Stadium.
Notre Dame at Houston in Reliant Stadium
Notre Dame at TCU in Cowboys Stadium
Notre Dame at Rutgers or UConn at the New Meadowlands
Notre Dame at UCF in the Citrus Bowl
Notre Dame at USF in Raymond James Stadium.
Each of these games puts Notre Dame in a big city and a great recruiting area. Each of these games would be NBC night games. Each of these games benefits Notre Dame while clearly benefitting the Big East teams, conferences and value.
Step 8: Profit
In closing, this is the only way the Big East can survive. Adding Navy, Army, Air Force or some combination as football-only members is not sustainable. Adding a no-market team like East Carolina makes no sense. Waiting for Villanova to bring up its FCS program is not a reasonable option – the Big East needs to be secure now.
The Big East can survive. But it needs to be proactive. It needs to think outside of the box. And it needs to do it quickly. But if the Big East can get its ducks in a row by the end of the year – hello tank-full of cash from Comcast.E-mail me
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