The Big East takes another body blow.
The Big 12 welcomed West Virginia from the Big East and bid goodbye to Missouri before the Tigers even had a chance to finalize their move to the Southeastern Conference.
Now that the poaching of the Big East seems to be over, the beleaguered league is not backing down. It has been busy courting six schools and says it was braced for the latest loss. And despite what the Big 12 says, the Big East plans to keep West Virginia for two more years — just as it has vowed to keep Pittsburgh and Syracuse away from the Atlantic Coast Conference until 2014.
The latest round of conference realignment appears to be winding down, but tug-o-war over who goes where when likely will take a while to sort out.
The Big 12 completed its work Friday by adding West Virginia to become its easternmost member, joining Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, TCU and Iowa State.
The Big 12 said it expects to have 10 schools for the 2012-13 season, listing West Virginia but not Missouri, which is expected to complete its move to the SEC any day now.
“I wouldn’t say that there won’t be further expansion,” interim Big 12 Commissioner Chuck Neinas said on a conference call Friday evening. “But our mission was … to move forward with 10 teams at this point. That doesn’t mean that there wouldn’t be further consideration. But right now, we’ve got our house in order. We’ve got everybody signed up. We’re looking forward to a very aggressive conference.”
So for now at least, Louisville will remain in the Big East despite a late push from Sen. Mitch McConnell to push them ahead of West Virginia. The Big East continues to insist that WVU, along with Pittsburgh and Syracuse, will be held to their conference commitment through the end of the 2013 season, but I think we all know that that’s a problem that can be resolved by a judicious application of the checkbook.
Given that, what will the Big East do? The sidebar on this ESPN story says it will continue forward with an expanded version of its expansion plans.
The Big East plans to announce Central Florida, Houston and SMU as future members of the conference, likely in 2013, as early as Tuesday, the source said. Navy and Air Force are being more deliberate and methodical in the process, but the conference is hopeful both soon will follow, along with Boise State.
The conference has statistics it believes shows those six teams in addition to Louisville, Rutgers, UConn, South Florida and Cincinnati would qualify the conference as a continued automatic qualifier for the BCS. As a 12th member, the schools under discussion include BYU, Army, Temple, East Carolina and Memphis. BYU would be part of a logical Western Division of the Big East.
The Big East believes it would qualify for the BCS because of the depth of the football success of proposed teams in terms of Top 25 appearances and an overall lack of traditional bottom-feeding schools.
While some may suggest an independent school like Navy or Air Force could be available as early as next season, a conference official warned that those schools are committed to large schedules for next season that would create complications as challenging as adding a school from a conference that has exit fee and timeline complications.
I think if the Big East gets the schools it wants that it can survive and could continue to be a BCS conference, but it will be a conference of convenience and not much more. I don’t see a whole lot of traditional rivalries in that group, and the ones that I do see all involve newcomers. What will hold anyone to the conference in the event that one or more of the ACC, SEC, and Big XII decide that 14 and 10 members are awkward numbers to schedule around? That’s the decision that UH now faces.
University of Houston Chancellor and President Renu Khator was granted authority to make decisions regarding the school’s athletic conference affiliation during a board of regents meeting on Thursday at UH.
School officials did not publicly discuss any particular conferences. However, the school has interest and an invitation from the Big East Conference, which is looking to expand to 12 football-playing members.
“We certainly want to thank chairperson (Nelda Luce) Blair and the board of regents for their decision to grant our chancellor authority to make any decisions regarding conference membership, conference affiliation that are in the best interests of our student-athletes, staff, head coaches and our athletic department,” UH athletic director Mack Rhoades said.
The timetable for when UH might take its next step in determining its conference future is unclear.
“We’ll wait and see,” Rhoades said.
I think if you feel reasonably certain that the Big East gets all the schools it is targeting, and that the other conferences are satisfied with what they have for the foreseeable future, then you make the move and hope for the best, even if it means that your biggest rivalry game goes the way of UT-A&M. I have no idea how to evaluate those odds, and no idea how risk averse UH will be. I’m just glad it’s not my decision to make.