The Big East Conference officially announced the additions of the University of Houston, Boise State, Central Florida, San Diego State and SMU on Wednesday.
UH, Central Florida and SMU are being added as all-sports members to the league while Boise State and San Diego State are joining as football-only members.
The additions will take effect in time for the 2013 football season.
“Over the last 32 years, the Big East Conference has constantly evolved along with the landscape of college athletics,” said Big East Commissioner John Marinatto. “The inclusion of these five great Universities, which bring a unique blend of premier academics, top markets, strong athletics brands and outstanding competitive quality, marks the beginning of a new chapter in that evolution. We are proud to welcome these schools to the Big East family.
“Much like the conference as a whole, the Big East name — though derived 32 years ago based on the geography of our founding members — has evolved into a highly respected brand that transcends borders, boundaries or regions. It’s national. Our membership makeup is now reflective of that.”
As things stand now, the reconstituted Big East will have ten members – I think it’s safe to assume that Syracuse, Pitt, and West Virginia will be allowed to make their exits prior to the 2013 season despite the lawsuit onslaught that has followed their initial announcements. Air Force and Navy may also be on board by then, which would allow the Big East to have two divisions, with the Big East West containing SDSU, Boise, Air Force, UH, SMU, and either Cincy or Louisville.
That all assumes that the five current Big East members stay put. As Andrea Adelson notes, that’s far from a sure thing.
The Big East had little choice but to add Houston, SMU, Central Florida and football-only members Boise State and San Diego State. After Pitt, Syracuse, TCU and West Virginia bolted the conference, the league had to do something to remain viable. That meant stretching itself, making Boise State its No. 1 priority to help boost its football profile. Boise State needed a West partner — hello, San Diego State.
None of this makes much geographical sense. There are no regional rivalries. There is no sense of brotherhood, of shared goals, of a common cause. Because the Big East was indeed a sinking ship in desperate need of a life preserver, it had to trade in the Backyard Brawl for some Red-Eye Rivalry.
These head-scratching moves do not answer any questions about the future of the Big East, not at all. What would make these 10 disparate universities band together to stick together? The first incarnation of the Big East failed. So did the second. How is the third any stronger than a conference that had Miami, Virginia Tech and West Virginia all on board?
Simply put, these moves are more of a stopgap measure and less of a stabilizing force. Once the conference seas start shifting again, you can bet some of the current members are going to want to jump as quickly as Pitt, Syracuse, West Virginia and TCU did.
Think about it: Rutgers, Cincinnati, Louisville and Connecticut have gauged the interest of other conferences. According to the lawsuit West Virginia filed against the Big East to try and get out of the league for the 2012 season, representatives from those four schools “have been engaged in discussions with other sports conferences, including the ACC, SEC and Big Ten for the purpose of trying to obtain invitations to join these conferences and withdraw from the Big East.”
Indeed, Louisville practically threw itself at the Big XII a few weeks back, and UConn’s lust for the ACC is well known. It’s possible this mashup will settle their wanderlust, or will keep the predators at bay. I’m not sure I’d bet on that, however.
As for the conferences that the five joiners leave behind, it looks like they will get together and
try to love one another right now form their own mega-conference.
C-USA and the Mountain West are considering a merger in all sports. Sources have indicated that Craig Thompson, the current commissioner of the Mountain West, would become the commissioner of the new merged league, while Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky would step down.
A vote on the merger could come by next month, sources said.
The merged league would consist of: East Carolina, Marshall, Memphis, Rice, Southern Miss, Tulane, Tulsa, UAB and UTEP from C-USA and Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico, UNLV and Wyoming from the Mountain West along with new members Fresno State, Hawaii and Nevada for a 17-team conference. However, Air Force remains a viable candidate to join the Big East.
So, it’s more or less the old WAC-16 with some of the names changed to protect the innocent. I can hardly wait for the MOB’s “Annual Salute To The Everything Old Is New Again Conference” show next September. Hell, I’d start working on a script for it myself if I had any confidence that things won’t change again between now and then.
Anyway. As I said, I wish UH the best of luck. Nobody knows what the college football landscape will look like in a year, so if something comes along that looks like it may be better than what you have, you may as well grab for it. A statement from Rep. Garnet Coleman, in whose district UH resides, is beneath the fold.
UPDATE: Air Force is staying put.
Today, the University of Houston will accept an invitation to the Big East Conference. This is a great day for both the University and city of Houston. Already recognized by the Carnegie Foundation as a Tier One research university, the ability to play in a major athletic conference will bring the national prestige and recognition that such an excellent university deserves.
I have been fighting for years to get UH into a major athletic conference. While I would have liked for the university to be able to join other Texas schools in the Big 12, the Big East is nevertheless a great honor and opportunity. Belonging to a legitimate BCS Conference such as the Big East will result in high quality match-ups, giving the school’s excellent athletes the chance to play with – and beat – the best. Moreover, the University will have the opportunity to compete for a BCS bowl bid year in and year out, something that had previously been an uphill battle.
While UH will obviously benefit from this move, the Big East has just been made stronger as well. In UH, the Big East is admitting a top flight institution with a great history of academic and athletic excellence. Those of us who have been following sports in Houston can remember the previous athletic successes of the university, such as “Phi Slama Jama” and Andre Ware’s successful Heisman run, but it appears that the university’s best days are still ahead.
The University of Houston is the third largest university in the state, the flagship university of one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas, and is situated in one of the most fertile recruiting areas in the country. With this latest step, UH is poised to showcase to the whole nation what great things are happening right here in our backyard. Much credit must be given to the outstanding leadership of UH Chancellor and President Renu Khator, because the future of UH has never been brighter.
Finally, I want to congratulate the UH football team on one of its most successful seasons ever. Led by head coach Kevin Sumlin and quarterback Case Keenum, the Cougars amassed an impressive 12-1 record and earned the right to play Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl on New Years Day in Dallas, Texas. Moreover, this year, Case Keenum became the all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns in NCAA history and was touted by many as a potential Heisman Award candidate. UH has proven itself to be one of the best football teams in the state, and I look forward to the years of success that await the school in all athletics in the Big East. Good luck against Penn State, and Go Coogs!