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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

P.S.R. Op-Ed

Like it or Not, This is Your Only Choice

In T.C.U., the Big East thought it had found its white knight. The Horned Frogs would have brought prestige to a league desperate for some B.C.S. credibility after its recent national flops, such as Connecticut’s backdoor entry into last year’s Fiesta Bowl — and we know how that ended. T.C.U. would have been the flag bearer, the gold standard and the national face of a conference frantically searching for a highly-ranked presence to combat the rest of the B.C.S., geography be damned. The Horned Frogs were added for one purpose and one purposes only: be the program we don’t have. And it was a marriage of convenience for both parties, with one side needing to alter its standing and the other looking for a place at the table.

But the breakup isn’t a divorce in the traditional sense. Call it an annulment: the two sides met, liked what they saw and eloped to Vegas. Then T.C.U. woke up, saw its bedmate, thought about the prettier girl closer to home and put the kibosh on its short-term dalliance with the Big East. That’s quite the metaphor.

Unfortunately, as in any breakup, we see a winner and a loser. T.C.U. is the obvious winner in this scenario: Texas made the appropriate concessions, paving the way for the Horned Frogs to join the Big 12, where they should have been in the first place. The Big East, the loser, is left at the altar.

For the good of the conference — and to ensure the league’s future — it’s time for the Big East to pick up the pieces. How does the Big East go about doing that? By finding the next T.C.U., for starters, and then going about locating the next Syracuse, Pittsburgh and perhaps Louisville, which has been reported to be one of three teams next on the Big 12’s list should Missouri end up going to the SEC.

Finding the next T.C.U. is far more vital than locating the next Syracuse or Pittsburgh — in football, at least. In terms of a football product, there are many schools that could replicate what Syracuse — especially the Orange — and the Panthers brought to the table. U.C.F. would immediately be an improvement over Syracuse and at worst a match to Pittsburgh. Navy and Air Force would be immediate and long-term improvements over both.

It won’t be too hard to replace the A.C.C.-bound pair, in my opinion. It’ll be extremely hard to replace all those things that T.C.U. would have brought to the table, most notably the national prestige and stature the Horned Frogs would have lent the Big East. And there’s only one team — one team that can realistically be added — with the ability to make a T.C.U.-like impact.

You know the team: Boise State. Forget Air Force; the Falcons will be a good fit but not a league-changing force. Same with Navy. Houston, if added, would add some punch to an often offensively-impotent conference but wouldn’t be a national factor. U.C.F. plays football to win, not impress, and while the Knights have a high ceiling I am not confident in the program’s ability to join Florida, Miami (Fla.) and Florida’s in its own state’s power structure.

You have no such concerns for Boise State. You know the Broncos are a national contender — I hesitate to say national power, since the Broncos have done most of their work in the WAC, but what other phrase can you use for a team that’s 65-5 since 2006? You know Boise would be the Big East’s B.C.S. representative not just in 2011 but over the last few years; you can’t prove it, but any argument to the contrary avoids Boise’s recent level of play and the Big East’s own incompetence.

The concerns regarding Boise lie off the field. You worry about the program’s graduation rate, which isn’t strong. You worry about market in which it plays, since television and money have been the two primary motivators behind conference expansion.

If you’re the Big East, you don’t worry about geography. Not when you added T.C.U., or when you’re considering adding Air Force. Boise is farther west than that pair, of course. But is it far enough west to offset all the positives the program would bring to the table?

In terms of the football product, the Big East needs Boise just as much as it needed T.C.U. earlier in the year. More, even, if you consider the fact that getable programs — those not currently in a B.C.S. conference — like T.C.U. or Boise are far from a dime a dozen. With T.C.U. gone, how many other non-B.C.S. conference programs are there that could step right in and go toe-to-toe with the Big 12’s best, the Big Ten’s best, even — gasp — the SEC’s best?

It’s a short list, and I can count it on one finger. If the Big East is serious about keeping its football future alive, about improving its national pedigree, about putting forth a product that won’t pale in comparison to the B.C.S. landscape, adding Boise State is the only realistic solution.

This is a football-only conversation. And football’s what puts food on the table for the Big East, not basketball — and that’s true for every conference in the country. Want to keep the B.C.S. money flowing? Then ensure your survival by adding the Broncos. And with all that’s at stake, the Big East needs to ignore any underlying concerns and grab the next-best thing to T.C.U. — if not the better thing, based on the years of evidence at our disposal.

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  1. Rutgers Prof says:

    For non-football reasons, schools need to include in a conference other schools that are at least remotely similar to them. The 6 remaining Big East football schools are all large state universities. Five are urban or suburban. Five are or have pretensions to become major research centers. Rutgers football players have the #1 average APR over the last five years and are not merely good students but model citizens. TCU got in because the Catholic basketball schools supported another religious institution and the fan base was sufficiently ignorant to imagine that TCU was more like the institutions it was joining than it was. Neither of these factors apply to Boise State. Distance is not the issue. As odd as it would be, people in New Jersey would go along with Rutgers joining the Pac 12 or the Big East adding a West Coast school. However, no one is willing to send the team off to play football games in Montana, which most people have never heard of. I cannot imagine Rutgers ever agreeing to add Boise State to the Big East.

  2. Dave says:

    Great post, and a great metephor. Only question – is there any chance the Big 9 will make an offer to Boisie? If so, the Big East might as well wait, because I’m sure Boisie would do the same as TCU and go with the better, closer-to-home conference. It would be awfully embarrassing to get stood up twice.

  3. Ezra says:

    With TCU sucked into the cartel, what does Boise gain from joining the Big East? Is there really any competition for Boise in the non-cartel autobid race anymore?

    Boise basically has the non-cartel autobid all to itself, and can play a few teams within driving distance every year.

    In other words, from Boise’s perspective, it ain’t broke.

  4. paul says:

    no mention of temple??? -_- #smh

  5. Dave says:

    @ Rutgers Prof –

    Boise is in Idaho, not Montana. Hopefully you are not a geography professor…

  6. Rutgers Prof says:

    I stand corrected. But my error makes my point. No matter how good they are told it is, most fans will be indifferent to a school they have never heard of from a place they have never heard of.

  7. John Irons says:

    I had the same thought as Dave. While certainly what’s left of the Big 12 isn’t in quite as precarious of a situation as what’s left of the Big East, they would be wise to scoop up the Broncos.

  8. Gunner says:

    Boise is the best team in the nation right now. You saw what Utah did to Alabama 3 or 4 years ago. Boise would do the same thing and they have a QB, something the Tide doesn’t have..

  9. John Irons says:

    IF the Big 12 keeps Mizzou the equation could be quite simple:

    Lose: Colorado, Nebraska, and A&M
    Gain: TCU, Boise, and BYU.

    Certainly not an even swap, but you’d get perhaps the three best options – at least in terms of geography and competition, perhaps not so much in TV markets.

    However, the league would be back at 12, back to being a DAMN good athletic conference, and hopefully stable.

  10. Bronco Pete says:

    BOISE, Idaho – NCAA President Mark Emmert recently reached out to congratulate Boise State Head Football Coach Chris Petersen and the Bronco team for its achievement in the most recent NCAA Division I Academic Progress Rate report.

    At the time of the report’s release this past May, the football team received a public recognition from the NCAA as its multi-year academic performance rate of 981 was in the top-10 percent for all Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools.

    In a letter sent to Petersen earlier this month as a NCAA Public Recognition Award recipient, Emmert stated “As the head coach, you play a critical role in helping your student-athletes achieve their athletic and academic goals. The academic success of your team demonstrates your commitment to developing student-athletes and promoting the overall student-athlete experience. Your team has demonstrated its commitment in the classroom and on the playing field, which set a great example for all students.”

    Each year the NCAA honors selected sports teams by publicly recognizing their latest multi-year APR scores.

    “This NCAA commendation is high praise for our football program and deservedly recognizes our student-athletes who are excelling in their academic pursuits,” said Boise State President Bob Kustra. “We are very proud to be ranked among the top schools for the Academic Progress Rate. It is a testament to the commitment of our student-athletes and the coaching staff to the academic success of each member of the team.”

    In an article written by Brett McMurphy of CBSSports.com on June 15, 2011, Petersen was recognized as having the best APR average the past two reporting years for all FBS head coaches.

    The Broncos posted a perfect score of 1,000 in 2008-09 and a 997 score in 2009-10 for a two-year average of 998.5.

    Based on overall NCAA data between 2003-04 and 2009-10, Petersen has the ninth best average among FBS head coaches at 975.

    The APR provides a real-time look at a team’s academic success each semester by tracking the academic progress of each student-athlete on scholarship. The APR accounts for eligibility, retention and graduation providing a measure of each team’s academic performance.


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