Big Lead Sports Bar


The Big East: a Lower-Tier Conference...Except for the Coaches

While watching an otherwise boring afternoon of sports on Saturday with my brother, Ramon Mondesi, the topic of college coaches came up. We had to talk about something other than that stinker of an ACC Championship (with about 100 fans in attendance) we were watching.
Ramon noted that for the Big East being such a lowly, second-tier football conference, there seems to be quite a large demand for their coaches. Michigan State just hired Mark Dantonio to replace the face-slapping John L. Smith. Miami desperately wanted Greg Schiano. Alabama is hot to trot for Rich Rodriguez. Bobby Petrino actually told the Oakland Raiders, a quasi-NFL team, "no" last year.
Big East haters (which frequent this site) will immediately spring up and say, "You see, it's really not a big conference. If it were, would these coaches even want to leave?"
I hear your point. I doubt WVU has the coaching budget of Alabama, and I don't think football is as important a part of Rutgers' culture as it is to Miami. I'm sure Cincinnati could not afford to pay Mark Dantonio the same kind of cash that Michigan State could fork over.
While a big budget is an important factor in the success of a program, it is not the be-all and end-all. In fact, I just read a great Peter Keating article in Oct 9 ESPN the Magazine (page 12) about the high cost of winning. Schools are paying for powder-puff games, coach buyouts, fat contracts, and bigger stadiums. The result? "There is no correlation between winning percentages and the amount spent on building the football or men's hoops programs", according to the author's recap of a 2003 study by Competition Policy Associates.
In the article, Keating points out that Colorado has borrowed $8 million to buy out the contracts of former football coaches, Iowa paid I-AA Montana $650,000 to schedule a game against the Hawkeyes this season, and Tennessee will dish out $750,000 for a game against Louisiana-Lafayette next year. Do you see Colorado, Iowa, or Tennessee in the BCS picture this year?
The point is that Schiano, Dantonio, Petrino, and Rodriguez have built solid programs at their respective schools. Beyond those four, the other Big East coaches have more than held their own, for the most part.
Jim Leavitt's South Florida Bulls didn't even exist in 1996, they didn't join D1 until 2001, and they didn't join a conference until 2003. Now they sit at 8-4 after knocking off former national championship contender WVU. QB Matt Grothe has thrown for 2,495 yards/14 TD and run for 607 yards/9 TD...and he's just a freshman. They could be the sleeper of 2007.
Randy Edsall's UConn Huskies didn't jump to D1 until 1999 and didn't join a conference until 2004. While they have won just a few games this season, I would consider them an up-and-coming threat. They have a very young team, with 45 freshmen and 23 sophomores. And they certainly had enough firepower to get past Pitt (yes, I know, "who hasn't"), but it was a gutsy comeback nonetheless.
Dave Wannstedt has yet to get that signature victory, but his biggest W to this point has been in the recruiting wars. The fruits of his labor will probably not be visible until 2008, but I have been very impressed at how successful he's been attracting some blue-chippers to the university. If he can endure a tough 2007 schedule, with roadies against WVU, Louisville, Rutgers, Michigan State, and Virginia, and keep any kind of momentum, this team will be dangerous.
Syracuse has struggled for a few years now. Gregg Robinson certainly has his work cut out, but he has some nice recruits on the way. However, I'm not going to say Syracuse has anything resembling a good program right now just to support my argument. Every conference has their dogs, and Syracuse is the dog of the Big East.
The Big East is a better conference than they get credit for. They're a convenient target for criticism by the media and fans. Correct me if I'm wrong, but did the lowly Big East team not knock off the big, bad SEC team in the Sugar Bowl last year?
For Big East detractors, I'm sure you are fans of a team that is in a rival big-six conference. Let's use Penn State as an example. If Ohio State, Michigan, and, say, Purdue, pull out of the Big 10, that would be a big loss, right? All of a sudden, your conference is weakened. But you still have some big-time programs: Penn State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, et al. You then replace the three schools with comparable replacements. Maybe they're not as sexy as the teams you lost, but they're all solid programs with good coaching. Sure, it takes a little time for them to fully integrate, but they join the league and do well. Wouldn't you be upset if the NCAA took away your conference's BCS status? And wouldn't you be a little defensive if the entire nation took shots at the conference on a daily basis?
The Big East lost Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College. Their combined record this year was 25-11. They gained Louisville, Cincinnati, and South Florida. Their combined record this year was 26-10, with victories over then-#17 Miami, then-#3 WVU, then-#7 Rutgers, and then-#7 WVU. In head-to-head meetings, Louisville beat Miami, 31-7, and Va Tech downed Cincy, 29-13. At the very least, you have to admit these are comparable programs. But I doubt you will. That's why I hate college football. Nerds such as myself will dig up statistics and try to prove why we're as good as you. And you'll disagree, and provide your own list of why the Big East sucks.
The power thats be who are in charge of this must watch this play out and laugh and laugh and laugh. Laugh all the way to the bank, that is. They could care less who is in the national championship or any bowl game. As long as those ginormous paydays keep coming in, the NCAA will continue in their ways as one of the most hypocritical organizations in the country. Dan Patrick and John Saunders and Mike Lupica can debate the BCS till they're blue in the face, and it won't make a lick of difference. The payout this year will be bigger than ever. In their eyes, they've done a fantastic job.


Anonymous said...

Anyone think Robert Morris has any chance ever ever becoming D-1 and joing a conference like the big east?

I can dream...

tbart213 said...

I agree with everything in this post, but I just wanted you to know that it didn't make me laugh the first time I read it. But then I re-read it and I got it.

Anonymous said...

College football is just retarded in general. Don't get me wrong, I love the game and all, but where else in the world do you have a system where, 9 times out of 10, anything short of a perfect season ruins your chance for a national championship? How can you take this sport seriously when so much is based on opinions, ever changing numbers, and whims of poll voters.

This can be solved so easily. Play in conference games for the regular season and begin a BCS national football tournament. Each round can be sponsered by the usual crowd and with each advancing round the sponsers and prize $$ get bigger and bigger. Year after year, the sponsors can rotate so that each will get the championship game. It might extend the season by only a games or two, giving fans something to see, and in the end, you have a clear cut polling/voting/lobbying/etc. And I don't want to hear "well the problem with doing away with all of the bowl games is that the schools don't get the sponsorship money" because do you think that a BCS dollar value is more important to a school than the national championship trophy sitting in the trophy case?

I can understand all of the noise about football national polls, but take a look at basketball. No one (except Pitt fans) will ever cry that their team is #6 vs. #4. Why? Because there is a championship system in place that guarantees a team having a solid season will have a chance at a national championship and a national ranking is only for show.

Personally I'm tired of hearing everyone cry. The coaches/fans of the big market team that only has 2 losses crying about a smaller market team with a lower strength of schedule ahead of them, and the small market coaches/fans whining about their team having only 1 loss and being ranked below a team...well you get the picture. Stop whining and fix the obvious problem.

Anonymous said...

Reports today are saying that Schiano got offered the Miami job and turned it down, so someone is doing something right somewhere.

Anonymous said...

As for the resources offered by Big East schools, even Cincinnati stepped up to the plate. This is from the Cincinnati Enquirer after Dantonio's departure --

"Dantonio, who spent six years from 1995 to 2000 as an assistant coach at Michigan State, said UC made a strong counteroffer late last week that came close to matching the $1.1 million annual compensation that he’ll receive from Michigan State."

Not bad for what is perceived, resources-wise, to be the worst school in the conference.

Anonymous said...

Despite evidence to the contrary, the Big East is having a hard time shaking its reputation as an inferior conference because it loses the "laundry" battle. The main reason the Big East is still looked at as an inferior conference even this year is because they lack an "iconic" program - that easily identifiable team with a couple of decades worth of relatively-modern tradition that everyone comes to automatically associate with the conference. They had one with Miami, and you could make the case that VT was on its way there when it left for the ACC as well.

No other school in the Big East really carries that universal and automatic recognition with it that an iconic program does. At the beginning of the year, I'd be willing to bet that some college fans and media types couldn't have told you what emblem was on the side of Rutgers' helmet.

And for some reason, the Big East gets penalized by this. It's one of the main reasons why the Big East was still answering claims about its perceived inferiority this year, despite the FACT that they were one of only three power conferences to place three teams in the most recent Top 20. The Big Ten had three and the SEC had four.

Yes, that's correct. The "lowly" Big East put more teams in the AP Top 20 than the vaunted Big XII and the vaunted Pac 10. Yet Big East detractors find it almost impossible to admit that a team like WVU, Rutgers or Louisville can't possibly compete with a team like Penn State, Wisconsin, Tennessee or Texas (Texas lost at Kansas State for crying out loud). You advance a notion like that to a Big East detractor and you get a snobby "you can't be serious" response.

This refusal to admit that a Big East team can't possibly be competitive with some of the more traditional programs might have hurt Louisville's chances at a national title at the end of the year, too.

Consider this. Heading into this past weekend, a 10-1 USC team was closer to a berth in the title game than 10-1 Louisville was heading into their respective games this past weekend. Prior to this weekend, USC's only loss was on the road to an unranked Oregon State team. Louisville's loss also came on the road to a Rutgers team that was ranked 15th at the time.

In terms of quality wins, USC had more - three wins against ranked teams (#19 Nebraska, #21 Oregon and #17 Cal, all at home). Louisville had two - #17 Miami and #3 WVU, both at home - but you could argue the win over #3 WVU was "worth" just as much as the wins over #19 Nebraska and #21 Cal.

Maybe I'm nuts. Maybe I'm sounding like another paranoid Big East fan. I just think it's ridiculous that some of their teams still have to justify their place in THIS YEAR'S rankings because their programs may not have the traditions build over past seasons that other power conference programs have. I think that's absolutely ridiculous.

Adam said...

comparing the big east to the acc isnt fair. first off, yes the big east was better than the ACC this year, by far. but being better than a horrible conference doesnt make the big east a good one does it?? Louisville beat Miami who was 17th AT THE TIME. they are 6-6 now with the same record as Pitt. And i believe you just said the big east is better than the acc so therefore, technically a 6-6 pitt is better than a 6-6 miami, making louisvilles win over pitt more relevent than the miami win. so forget the Miami game.

As for USC, you left out the ass whooping they dealt Arkansas. Thats four wins over ranked teams. plus, you have to factor in program prestige. USC has been in the championship hunt for 4 years now. and where has louisville been? that ways in the minds of the voters. finally, i believe Oregon state is ranked NOW are they not? that is 5 wins over ranked teams.

finally, you leave out room for Penn State to move up if they win their bowl game. They are 26 in the BCS rite now, and a win over tennessee would easily put them in the top 25. Tennessee would not fall out because they will not fall from 17-26. that gives Big 10 and SEC 4 ranked teams.

Finally, some perspective on Big East teams. WVA and Louisville do not appear to have defenses. Luckily for Louisville, wake is not a team that will expose that in the Orage bowl, because, well, they suck. That may be the biggest differance between the conferences.

overall, I think the Big east has a case to be the 4th best conference in the country. They share the second teir with the Pac 10. But until a Big east team beats a legite team from the SEC or Big 10, they will end up on the short end of the one loss stick.

Anonymous said...

"But until a Big east team beats a legite team from the SEC or Big 10, they will end up on the short end of the one loss stick."

How quickly "Adam" forgets the WVU-Georgia Sugar Bowl last year.

Bic said...

Yeah I figured WVU's bowl win last year would be huge but people have it stuck in their minds that the Big East can never be good again...similar to how people seem to think Rutgers is never allowed to be a good program again.

Andy said...

The Big East is a dumb offsides penalty from pairing it's undefeated Louisville team against my Buckeyes. I think the Big East has some pretty good talent, but we will never know how good they were this year because the match-ups stink here in the bowl season. WVU, Rutgers and Louisville are top notch teams this season. The Big East is definitely on the rise.