Like it or Not, This is Your Only Choice
By Paul Myerberg // Oct 7, 2011
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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Tags: Big East, Boise State, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, T.C.U.
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