Tag: Big East
Or… Why Joe Paterno is Laughing Himself Silly Down in Heaven
In the wake of Big East Commissioner John Marinatto’s (forced) resignation, there’s been a lot of revisionist history about what should have been done to strengthen the league. I don’t think anything substantive could have been done post-2004; certainly nothing that would have prevented further defections.
It’s been written that the conference dithered too much in the wake of the 2004 ACC defections. The additions of Louisville, Cincinnati and USF stabilized the league but that was it. UCF or Memphis might have been decent additions at the time but no available school would have radically shifted the balance of power nor provided the anchoring presence that the University of Miami once did.
A league needs an anchor tenant (or two) around which to build its brand. The ACC already had a high mid-level brand in Clemson and got an anchor tenant when they admitted Florida State in 1992. Prior to 2004, the Big East wasn’t the clear-cut worst BCS conference; it was relatively on par with the ACC in football and could have even tried to poach FSU and maybe UMD and UVA, two decent mid-level brands. But instead, the ACC acted boldly and snagged the Big East’s anchor tenant (Miami), a high mid-level brand (Virginia Tech) and a large market (Boston College).
So I would contend that the Big East as a major football league has been doomed to die a slow death since losing the Hurricanes. I, for one, am very relieved that Pitt is off that sinking ship.
With the news coming out that head coach Greg Schiano has bolted Rutgers for the supposedly greener pastures of the NFL, the immediate concern for Scarlet Knights fans focuses on the program’s future relevance. BCS concerns aside, can Rutgers continue to field even a modestly successful football program (defined here as at the very least an average of 6-8 wins/year).
The historical answer, pre-Schiano/post-1978, is a resounding no. Except for Greg Schiano, no other coach has won big at Rutgers. Except for Greg Schiano, no other coach has gotten a firm commitment (read: financial) from Rutgers’ administration to field a winning big-time program.
I didn’t realize this but apparently Rutgers was once an academics-first/only institution. As opposed to fellow northeastern schools Pitt and Pennstate which both boast outstanding academics but also strive to run with the big boys in college football, Rutgers didn’t even put itself in the game. This was the eye-opening passage for me from CFT’s Matt Hinton:
Traditionally, Rutgers belongs to the class of academically oriented schools in the Northeast that disavow the corrupting influence of big-time football: Before Division I was split into “I-A” and “I-AA” classifications in 1978, its schedule consisted overwhelmingly of teams from the Ivy League and the kind of wannabe-Ivy schools that would go on to form the Patriot League — that is, second and third-rate programs that care so little about sports that most of them still don’t offer athletic scholarships.
And Rutgers were mostly successful in that setting. 7, 8, 9-win seasons weren’t uncommon. It was only after trying to join the big boys post-1978 that Rutgers became a laughingstock of a program. In fact, in 1976, Rutgers went 11-0… against a lineup of Navy, Bucknell, Princeton, Cornell, UConn, Lehigh, Columbia, UMass, Louisville, Tulane and Colgate. Four of those schools were non-IA. That team didn’t even go to a bowl game.
By comparison, the 1976 National Champion, who went 12-0, played a schedule consisting of Notre Dame, GA Tech, Temple, Duke, Louisville, Miami-FL, Navy, Syracuse, Army, WVU and Pennstate with a Sugar Bowl win over Georgia. That team was Pitt. (Hail).
Beano Cook once wrote that if you’d asked him in the early 1970′s to name the programs with the most un-tapped potential, he would have named Miami-FL (duh)… and Rutgers. The strength of northeastern teams from Pitt to Pennstate to Syracuse has often been supplanted with the fantastic talent that comes out of the Garden State. Greg Schiano tapped into that base, to a degree, and it helped him build a modestly successful program. Whether another coach can build on that legacy or even sustain it is debatable.
My guess is that Rutgers fades into semi-irrelevance; partly by choice of not paying ridiculous huge sums to keep up with the Ohio States of the world and partly by being excluded from the big boy conferences upon the demise of the Big East.
Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
The college sports world was thrown into turmoil this weekend when it was revealed Pitt and Syracuse had applied for and been accepted for membership in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Speaking to Andy Katz of ESPN, Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said that adding the Panthers and Orangemen would be a coup for the ACC.
“It’s actually pretty exciting,” Krzyzewski said. “I think it’s great for our conference football-wise, even better basketball-wise. Wherever this is going to end up, four big-time conferences or five, whatever it is, you want to be perceived as No. 1 in football and basketball.”
It is widely known that Duke and Coach K opposed the ACC’s previous expansion plans, a position that solidified the other universities’ resolve to add Miami-FL, Virginia Tech and Boston College. So even though Pitt and Syracuse bring top-notch basketball programs to the ACC, Krzyzewski’s remarks still caught ACC administration off guard.
MST has since learned that the ACC’s Presidents and Athletic Directors have had a sudden change of heart upon hearing of Coach K’s welcoming words. Using a little known by-law known as the We Hate Duke Corollary, they have since re-voted to reject Pitt’s and Syracuse’s applications to the conference. The ACC’s expansion focus will now shift to schools that will most definitely piss off the Blue Devils.
“It’s actually pretty exciting,” Krzyzewski said. “I think it’s great for our conference football-wise, even better basketball-wise. Wherever this is going to end up, four big-time conferences or five, whatever it is, you want to be perceived as No. 1 in football and basketball.
… or How to Silence Orrin Hatch
The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the Big Ten will take Mizzou if they fail to land Texas. Mizzou isn’t a slam-dunk addition like Texas but it does meet the Big Ten’s academic requirements and it’s a large flagship school which brings the St. Louis and KC markets into the Big Ten footprint. The other major candidate, Pitt, clinches the rest of the Pittsburgh market and brings a decent added presence in the northeast but PSU already has strong market coverage in the northeast. Forget about Syracuse and Rutgers, which don’t guarantee NYC, which is a Pro town anyway. And Nebraska and OU don’t add enough market presence.
Let’s also think about the musical chairs in a collective sense. If the Big Ten took Pitt (or Syracuse or Rutgers), it could very well wreck the Big East as a football conference. What people fail to take into account when criticizing the Big East’s BCS status (which btw we’ve quite well enough to maintain our standing) is that it is to the BCS’ advantage to have the Big East included. Politically, you can’t shut out that many northeastern FBS schools, especially tradition-rich schools like Pitt, WVU and Syracuse as well as up-and-comers like Rutgers and UConn. You want a slight majority of FBS universities in the BCS; thus, the less likely it is to fall prey to anti-trust action. That’s not an argument for the BCS to expand by adding the MWC – that would be overkill. But just a few more teams will suffice.
Let’s follow the dominoes:
1) Big Ten takes Mizzou from the Big XII.
2) PAC-10 takes Colorado and Utah from the Big XII and MWC, respectively.
3) Big XII takes TCU and BYU from the MWC to fill the gaps left by Colorado’s & Mizzou’s departures.
Bam, there go the three strongest long-term football-playing institutions. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) will shut up about a playoff once his state’s two biggest schools are part of the big dawg’s club. TCU is currently the strongest school in Texas that’s not in a BCS conference. The lone wolf left out in the cold is Boise State, which I’m convinced will fall into disrepair anyway in a few years once Chris Peterson leaves. In fact, I’d posit that Boise State not getting into a BCS conference will hasten his departure and Boise State’s demise. Plus, Idaho doesn’t have enough political clout to bring down the BCS; the Mormon state is the key because they have two strong FBS schools.
The paths of BCS teams leaving one conference or another is irrelevant. Texas to the Big Ten or PAC-10 – Texas A&M following big-brother Texas or not – Colorado leaving for the PAC-10 – Mizzou going to the Big Ten – all that matters is to make just enough room for BYU, Utah and TCU to move up. (Personally, I feel that Houston is a stronger long-term prospect than TCU because of enrollment and potential market size but they’re only just starting their revival under Kevin Sumlin, who may leave soon anyway. But I digress…)
The end result is that the gravy train is expanded just a smidge to include a couple relatively deserving FBS schools (as compared to the likes of Wazzu & Miss St, at least) and the BCS rolls on, still scorned but stronger than ever. A plus-one/four-team playoff may eventually happen but it’ll never get larger than that.
Shellfishly, us old-time northeasterners want the Keystone State rivalry to be renewed, which drives a lot of people around here who want Pitt in the Big Ten. Fair enough, but if FSU/UF and UGA/GT can play OOC every year, the same can happen for Pitt/Pennstate. We just need some time for JoePa to finally retire and then a couple years afterwards for scheduling to get worked out. It will happen by the latter half of the decade. Patience, my friends, patience.
In the meantime, remember that moreso than cultural or historical fit, conference expansion is about market size, market size, market size.
So we’re all reading tons and tons about the Big Ten candidacies of Pitt, RU, Syracuse, Mizzou, Nebraska, Texas and its little lonestar sisters. And then there’s the PAC-10 possibly poaching from a list that includes Texas, Colorado or Utah. And then the Big XII turning around and choosing from a list that includes Utah, BYU, TCU and Houston. And the Big East fighting for survival with a list that includes UCF, Memphis & Temple or dream-gets like UMD or BC.
That’s five of the six BcS conferences looking to shake up the college sports landscape with resultant repercussions for Conference USA, the WAC and MWC.
In all this discussion, why do we not mention the reigning behemoth – the SEC? What’s to prevent the SEC from going after … TEXAS? And why not? 12 is only the minimum for a conf title game. Adding Texas and either OU, Texas A&M or Texas Tech would be beyond blockbuster. It would shatter everything in college sports.
I recognize that the Big Ten makes more money than even the SEC and the SEC is probably pretty content at 12 teams, which makes the Big Ten and PAC-10 far more likely moves for the Longhorns. Still, it’s worth pondering though in the final analysis, I can’t see Texas moving; the Texas legislature just wouldn’t allow a move that could harm its Lonestar little sisters.
Photo Credit: burntorangenation.com
In honor of NLI Day, let us speculate.
In the fall of 2010, sophomore Kevin Newsome and mega-recruit Paul Jones will lose the PSU starting QB competition to true freshman Robert Bolden. Not willing to ride the pine for three years, Jones transfers to Pitt and Newsome follows in the footsteps of Jeff Hostetler by transferring to WVU. Three years later, Paul Jones starts for Pitt at Panther Hollow Field as they welcome Pennstate back to their eastern roots as a member of the re-formed Eastern Elite Conference (along with new/old members BC, ND, UVA, VT & UMD) in Greg Schiano’s first year at the helm of the State Penn. Mr. Schiano leads Pennstate out of the tunnel in true Jersey fashion – doing the fist pump.
Former PSU coach Joe Paterno is given a rousing chorus of “@$$h0le” by the Pitt faithful. Pennstaters at the game respond by throwing their beverages high up in the air but are surprised when said concoctions come straight down and hit them in the head. Former DC Tom Bradley weeps in a corner, alone and forgotten.
Schiano’s personal guests include the newly elected Governor of New Jersey, Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and first lady Snooki. Inspired by Schiano’s Jersey pride, The Situation subsequently passes a bill requiring all New Jersey/Staten Island/guido athletes to do the Fist Pump during pre-game ceremonies and changes the state song to Kernkfraft 400′s Zombie Nation. Mr. Schiano’s controversial replacement of White with Orange as PSU’s secondary color to more closely mirror the color of all his NJ players’ skin pays huge dividends as Pennstate’s new Orange-Glo Nights (sponsored by Fanta) will come to be devastating to opponents who can’t handle the burst of color from the students’ section. (Incidentally, PSU loses its first Orange-Glo against Mr. Schiano’s old team Rutgers because the PSU players can’t pick out the Rutgers’ players amidst the sea of orange).
Pitt avenges the memories of 48-14 by blasting Bolden into the ground in Dave Wannstedt’s swan song as Pitt coach before turning over the reins to OC Frankie Cignetti. Wannstedt’s first act as new Athletic Director is to bring back the script PITT as a third jersey. On the Pitt sideline that day are former greats Mike DITKA, who commands that all Pitt men must grow mustaches, goatees or beards, POTUS Larry Fitzgerald, Governor of Florida Danny Marino and the man responsible for finally destroying the BCS and instituting a college football playoff, NCAA Commissioner Tony Dorsett (pronounced DOR-sett, not dor-SETT).
Pitt Defensive Coordinator Tony Siragusa, one of the holdovers from Wannstedt’s staff, threatens to eat anyone who goes against DITKA’s commandment or doesn’t believe that Larry would’ve have caught that. Mr. Siragusa does end up eating Bob Nutting on orders from Pirates, Penguins and city of Pittsburgh owner/Wizard of Oz Mario Lemieux. Mr. Lemieux’s Man-Behind-The-Curtains, Ron Burkle slides into the all-concealing shadow as he seeks to find the Jade Monkey, road maps and ice scraper before the next full moon.
From up on high, the Four Horsemen of Pittsburgh Football – Art Rooney Sr, Pop Warner, Jock Sutherland and Myron Cope look down on all that they have wrought and smile. For behold, it is very good.
Photo Credits: Joe Hermitt/The Patriot News, Matt Freed/Post-Gazette
* I was all set to write a post about how Arizona should know its place in the college basketball world and that despite its past history, Arizona shouldn’t mentioned in the same breath as UCLA, UNC or Kansas anymore. After all, Mark Few, Jamie Dixon, John Calipari and Tim Floyd had already rejected the Wildcats’ advances.
Then they go out and get Sean Miller. Way to step up to the plate, Jim Livengood. Miller is a fantastic coach; he’ll do well out there. He’s just the guy to transform Arizona from a school defined by its legendary coach, Lute Olson, into a school that defines its head coach.
* Note to all those arrogant Dukies though – you are a Coach K move away from becoming Arizona. Duke was ok before Krzyzewski arrived in Durham but they’re obviously off the charts with him. As I’ve stated before, there’s no reason to believe that Duke has a “right” to be part of college basketball royalty. Even UCLA had some lean years post-John Wooden. Ultimately, schools like Arizona or eventually Duke will have to transform from being defined by a coach to being defined by the program.
* I really came to respect Tom Izzo’s considerable coaching abilities last year when his Spartans took out Pitt in the NCAA Tournament. Let’s face it – that was not his best team and Pitt was on a roll after winning the Big East tournament. I would honestly consider him among the top 5 major coaches out there, alongside Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, Jim Calhoun and Mike Krzyzewski.
I’m leaving my alma mater’s last two coaches, Jamie Dixon and Ben Howland, off the list because titles are the name of the game. All the coaches on this list have reached the summit. But I honestly believe Izzo is one of the few coaches out there who could step up and compete in the Big East.
* A good friend of mine at Duke recently got very excited that Seth Curry is transferring from Liberty to Duke. Like most single-mindedly, self-absborbed Duke ‘fans’, he decided to trumpet this event to me in the middle of my misery over the Pitt loss. Now that I’m somewhat more clear-headed, I have to say – whoop dee doo! Just what Duke needs; another jump shooter. Nope, not a big or a banger. Another skinny little kid for Duke’s dribble-drive, kick-it-out offense. Curry is a great player but he couldn’t have banged with the big dawgs in the Big East.