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.