TREBBY: Whom to blame for conference shuffling

Matthew Trebby

When Tulane joined the Big East on Tuesday, I honestly questioned what criteria the conference had for schools that had interest in joining. If a school has a football team and is within 500 miles east of the Mississippi River, is it welcome?

It doesn’t matter at all. Who cares how good they are at any sport? Tulane is in New Orleans and has football. What a market to have in the Big East! That is a whole different part of the country to add viewership of the conference!

Since 2005, Tulane football has averaged 2.875 wins per season. It is awful and not getting much better. The Green Wave have a new head coach, so there could be some room for optimism, but who in New Orleans is going to watch Big East athletics when their own team isn’t even good?

Eventually, people won’t even know which teams are in the Big East for just football and which are in it for all sports. East Carolina arrived Tuesday just for football, as Boise State, Navy, and San Diego State will in the future.

While all of this is going on, I realize Marquette is in an incredibly difficult situation. It really is at the mercy of schools like Cincinnati and Connecticut right now with Louisville leaving for the ACC Wednesday.

The best solution for the Golden Eagles would be to jump into a conference like the Big Ten or ACC as a basketball-only member, with the understanding that there would be no change in that status. If one of those two conferences wanted to get 14 or 16 football members and have two or four schools without football, that would be fantastic.

Otherwise, the proposed “basketball-only conference” is very popular as well. Teams like Marquette, Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova would create their own conference so they wouldn’t have to worry about schools like Louisville, Pittsburgh or Syracuse leaving whenever there’s more money to be made.

For now, though, someone needs to take the blame. Why is all of this happening? Who started it?

Well, Pittsburgh and Syracuse did.

Last fall, when those two announced they would be leaving the Big East for the ACC, they knocked over the first couple conference realignment dominoes. They did so because of the Big East’s lack of quality in football. Every season, the conference sends a team that probably isn’t even one of the country’s top 15 teams to a BCS bowl. The rest of the country then discusses how bad Big East football is and how embarrassing it is for the conference.

So Pittsburgh and Syracuse decided to pursue other avenues when they could. Why did they do that? Because they aren’t any good at football.

If any combination of Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh, South Florida, Syracuse or even West Virginia, while it was here, could have become an actually good college football team, that would have raised the quality of the rest of the conference.

Can I blame Brian Kelly for leaving Cincinnati when he was on the verge of that, or could I blame Dave Wannstedt for not being a good football coach and leaving loads of unfulfilled potential at Pittsburgh? Not entirely.

Let’s face it: all of this is happening because Big East football is not good at all. All of these schools are leaving because none of them were able to build a program that was even remotely respectable nationally. Louisville is the Big East’s best team right now, and I bet the SEC’s ninth-best team would wipe the floor with the Cardinals.

Marquette can’t do anything about that. It’s not the school’s fault these programs can’t build good football teams. But that’s in the past. At this time, the Golden Eagles’ conference future is up in the air because all of their Big East counterparts, past and present, are awful at football.

  • papadynamite

    You make a very good comment that I have not heard from anyone else. Syracuse has not had a very good football team in years. They are in a rebuilding era since being dessimated by Greg Robinson. In the meantime, they knew that money is a key for maintaining and growing the athletic department. Certainly more money was offered by the ACC. So why not go for it. In the current landscape, tradition has been thrown out the window. Money drives everything. The Big East had a wonderful basketball league. Now it has gone stale. I can’t even count the number of very good teams on one hand. The solution is to establish a Catholic League with the usual suspects and perhaps going outside to get some more. In otherwords, teams like St. Johns, Villanova, etc. could make for a nice basketball league and won’t have to travel around the country at great expense to play games. I think it will come to fruition.