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The Countdown

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

Need to Know

Temple’s In; Big East and MAC Reshuffle

It’s amazing what seven years, conference expansion and flexible travel plans can do to a once-mangled relationship. It wasn’t so long ago that Temple was being shown the door: The Big East was tired of carrying the Owls’ poor support, poor results and poor commitment to football, so it gave Temple the boot from the league altogether. Less than a decade later, the Owls are back to save the Big East’s bacon – with a smirk, perhaps, and definitely with a knowing glance. The non-football sports will join the league a year down the road; Temple will join the Big East for football immediately, helping the league offset West Virginia’s departure while it prepares for another influx of new arrivals for the 2013 season.

“When we started to negotiate to come back in, I thought it was just a wonderful, wonderful way to remove a blemish on our football program,” said Lewis Katz, a member of the Temple Board of Trustees and the head of the school’s athletic committee.

“We think we’re going to give the Big East exactly what they deserve, and really they’ve given us financially the opportunity to run a stable program,” he added. In that latter statement, Katz is referring to the sizable increase in funds that the move to the Big East will provide to Temple’s athletic department.

And while the Owls aren’t giving the conference what it deserves – the league did drop the school seven years ago – Temple is certainly giving the Big East what it needs.

It would make sense that Temple would simply take over West Virginia’s conference schedule for the 2012 season, as reports have indicated. If that turns out to be the case, the Owls’ would face Syracuse, Rutgers, Cincinnati and South Florida at home; road games would come against Connecticut, Louisville and Pittsburgh.

Temple won nine games last fall, tied for the second-most in a season in program history, and won its first bowl game since 1979. The Owls are 26-12 over the last three years, efficiently bridging the gap from Al Golden, who left after the 2010 season, to former Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio. Last fall’s team scored 398 points, one shy of the school record.

With Temple in the fold, soon to be joined by another six teams in 2013 and a seventh in 2015, the Big East is likely done with its expansion. Yesterday, conference commissioner John Marinatto said that having added Temple, the Big East will “take a pause on expansion front.” Of course, this break may end should another Big East program depart for greener pastures in the future.

As of now, the Big East will enter next season with eight teams: Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple and South Florida. Come 2013, that number may balloon to 14, with the addition of Boise State, U.C.F., Houston, Memphis, San Diego State and S.M.U. – that’s if the Panthers and Orange don’t head to the A.C.C. a year ahead of schedule, as most expect.

In all likelihood, the Big East will be a 12-team league in 2013; the above list, minus Syracuse and Pittsburgh. That would allow the conference to either maintain a single 12-team league or split into a pair of six-team divisions: East, with the current members, and West, with the six teams that join in 2013.

And what of the MAC? That league adds Massachusetts this fall, a move that would have finally created two evenly-split seven-team divisions. Now, with Temple’s departure official, the MAC will return to the awkward split of having six teams in one division and seven in another – last fall, the MAC had seven teams in the East division and six in the West.

The MAC will shake things up to compensate for Temple’s move. To maintain the seven-and-six split that was in place a year ago, Bowling Green will move from the West to the East. It was a short-lived stay in the West division for the Falcons, who were moved out of the East to make room for Massachusetts; with Bowling Green in the West, the MAC had its seven-team split.

Now, the East division will include the Falcons, Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State, Massachusetts, Miami (Ohio) and Ohio. Having transitioned Bowling Green to the East, the West division will now feature Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan. In short: status quo.

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  1. Matt Rob says:

    So the Big East will then be at 13 teams in 2015 when Navy joins (with the assumption that no schools leave or Navy doesn’t back out)?

  2. Adam Nettina says:

    My guess is the Big East adds another western team by 2015, per Marinatto. But I’d expect ‘Nova to be in the fold for future moves as well.

  3. Parker says:

    Hi Paul,

    At the Temple presser, Marinatto was asked about 13 teams when Navy joins. He said the goal was to get to 14 in football – two divisions of 7.

    And he specifically said they are looking for a Western partner.

    I assume now that Navy has committed, they’ll make another run at Air Force and perhaps BYU. Those would be home runs.

    On another front, I’ve read where Navy wants to play in the Western Division. Makes sense. They recruit Texas and California. Makes a lot more sense if Air Force joins the West.

  4. Burnt Orange says:

    Parker raises an interesting point – Navy has been recruiting Texas hard. 20 Texans on the current roster. The flip side of it is they recruit the Old South hard. It is a huge roster, but there are 90 players on it from the South – that includes Texas.

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