The Big East’s Lose-Lose B.C.S. Scenario
By Paul Myerberg // Dec 3, 2011
West Virginia waits by the phone – or in front of the TV, actually. Louisville holds its breath. Both have done all they could do: it took overtime, but the Mountaineers sneaked past South Florida to move to 5-2 in conference play, while Louisville has been in the clubhouse since last Friday. Both teams have the same goal, reaching the Orange Bowl, but both have opposite rooting interests this afternoon. West Virginia is rooting for Cincinnati; Louisville is rooting for Connecticut. Something has to give. Someone is going home disappointed. The Big East as a whole might lose either way.
Which scenario would be more Big East of the Big East?
Cincinnati wins, pushing all three teams into a tie atop the conference standings. Louisville beat West Virginia. West Virginia beat Cincinnati. Cincinnati beat Louisville. The Mountaineers head to the Orange Bowl thanks to having the highest ranking in the final B.C.S. standings. It should be noted that Connecticut has never beat Cincinnati on the road.
Cincinnati loses, leaving West Virginia and Louisville as the lone 5-2 teams in Big East play. Thanks to its win on Nov. 5, Louisville heads to the Orange Bowl. The Cardinals, 7-5 overall, become the first team with less than eight wins to participate in a B.C.S. bowl.
You can see why the latter would be a disappointing turn for the Big East. There have been six eight-win teams in the B.C.S. since its formation in 1998 but never a team with fewer than eight wins. That fact is a little misleading, seeing that teams play more games now than in the past, but look for the fact that Louisville is short of the eight-win threshold to be pointed out several times heading into January should the Cardinal earn the conference’s automatic B.C.S. bid.
Three of those six teams have come from the Big East: Syracuse in 1998, Pittsburgh in 2004 and Connecticut a year ago. Louisville, in a sense, would set a new low. The Cardinals are a great story, but one year after the Huskies were blown out by Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, the Big East could use a B.C.S. win.
So it stands to reason that the league offices might be rooting for a Cincinnati win over Connecticut. Not publicly, of course, but the league knows that sending the Cardinals to the slaughter against Virginia Tech – that’s purely hypothetical – would be another black mark on the conference’s record. And with the B.C.S. reformatting its selection procedures following the 2013 season, the Big East could stand to make a good impression.
But there’s a problem. It’s a pretty big problem, in fact. A Cincinnati win would send a stronger team to the Orange Bowl. Unfortunately, that team would be West Virginia. Here’s the Big East’s conundrum: the Mountaineers would provide a better show, but the program is also embroiled in a fairly acrimonious battle with the league over its future departure for the Big 12.
Imagine a scenario where Cincinnati wins tomorrow, sending W.V.U. to the Orange Bowl. The on-field product is stronger and the TV audience may be a little bigger, which is sweet news to the Big East. Later in December, West Virginia announces its intention to join the Big 12 next fall come hell, high water or an exorbitant – millions upon millions of dollars – exit fee from the Big East.
In this scenario, the Mountaineers would kick off the Orange Bowl as a member of the Big East, but would be a member of the Big 12 the second after the final whistle. Awkward. In other words, seeing that this scenario could come to pass, might the Big East rather have Louisville go to the Orange Bowl, not West Virginia?
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Tags: B.C.S., Big East, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Orange Bowl, West Virginia
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