Big East Football: Which Teams Are On The Rise or Decline?

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Louisville is a team on the rise under Charlie Strong.

<p> Big East Football: Which Teams Are On The Rise or Decline?</p>

With kickoff to the 2012 college football season still weeks away, it's time to evaluate where each team is headed. This is essentially a checkup or a state of the program overview for each team in the conference. Are they on the rise or decline? What factors in the future could have an impact on success? 

Big East State of the Program: On the Rise or On the Decline?

Cincinnati

Record over the last 5 years: 47-18 (24-11 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 78-49 (30-19 Big East – 7 years)

The Bearcats have been one of the Big East’s most successful teams over the last five years. Mark Dantonio established a solid foundation from 2004-05, while Brian Kelly elevated the program to back-to-back BCS bowls. After a 4-8 mark in 2010, Butch Jones returned the Bearcats into Big East title contention, but an injury to quarterback Zach Collaros late in the year was a huge setback.

State of the Program: On the Rise

Despite the losing record in his first season, Butch Jones is the right coach for Cincinnati. The Bearcats have some key losses to replace in 2012, but should be in the mix for a bowl game. The next step for Cincinnati is to win more in-state recruiting battles with Ohio State. Considering the talent in Ohio, the Bearcats should rank near the top of the Big East in recruiting every season. Facilities are improving, as Cincinnati added a practice bubble and expansion of the stadium has been discussed. With Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh leaving the Big East, Cincinnati has a chance to become one of the top programs in the conference.

 

Connecticut

Record over the last 5 years: 38-26 (19-16 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 70-53 (22-27 Big East – 7 years)

The Huskies have made steady progress since joining the FBS ranks in 2000. Randy Edsall turned Connecticut into a consistent winner, posting at least six victories in six out of eight seasons from 2002-09. Edsall also led the Huskies to a Fiesta Bowl appearance, but decided to bolt to Maryland after that game. Paul Pasqualoni was a curious hire, and Connecticut missed out on a bowl in 2010 for the first time since 2006.

State of the Program: Slightly Declining

Although Edsall had a terrible first season in College Park, he took the Huskies to five bowl games and a share of the Big East title in 2007 and 2010. Pasqualoni’s ties in the Northeast should help Connecticut’s recruiting, but his tenure at Syracuse declined over the last four years. Considering Pasqualoni will be 63 when the 2012 season begins – is he really the long-term answer? Another sub .500 season should place Pasqualoni squarely on the hot seat. If there’s another round of conference realignment, Connecticut is expected to be one of the first targets for the ACC. The Huskies are poised to move up the ladder in the next 10-15 years, but this program slowly sliding back after last season.
 

Louisville

Record over the last 5 years:
29-33 (13-22 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 77-48 (24-25 Big East – 7 years)

For the most part, the last 10 years have been a success for Louisville football. Of course, there’s the forgettable three-year tenure by Steve Kragthorpe, but the Cardinals won at least seven games in 7 of out the last 10 years. Bobby Petrino led Louisville to an appearance in the 2007 Orange Bowl and at least nine victories in each of his four years with the Cardinals. Charlie Strong had quite a mess to clean up from the Kragthorpe era, but has rebuilt Louisville into a top 25 team.

State of the Program: On the Rise

It’s no secret Louisville is an emerging Big East power. With West Virginia off to the Big 12 and Pittsburgh and Syracuse moving to the ACC, the door is open for the Cardinals to dominate in the Big East. Of course, that could quickly change with more realignment, as Louisville could be on the radar for future ACC or Big 12 expansion. Although Strong will be in the mix for offseason vacancies, there is no shortage of resources for this program to continue finishing near the top of the Big East in future seasons.

 

Pittsburgh

Record over the last 5 years:
38-26 (22-13 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 74-51 (42-27 Big East)

Pittsburgh football was largely dormant throughout the 1990s. The Panthers had only two winning seasons from 1990-99, but the hire of Walt Harris helped to get the program back in the right direction. Harris led the Panthers to a BCS bowl appearance in 2005, before leaving to coach at Stanford. Dave Wannstedt went 16-19 through his first three years, but led Pittsburgh to at least eight victories in each of his final three seasons. Wannstedt was fired after the 2010 regular season, and Miami (Ohio) coach Mike Haywood was hired to replace him. Haywood wasn’t on the job long before he was fired due to an off-the-field incident. The Panthers lack of success with head coaches continued with Todd Graham, who spent one season in the Steel City before bolting to Arizona State.

State of the Program: On the Rise

New coach Paul Chryst will bring some much-needed stability to Pittsburgh. The Panthers are a sleeper team to watch in the Big East title race for 2012, and this program will likely move to the ACC in time for the 2013 season. Although the Panthers have played in only one BCS bowl since 2000, there’s potential to win big and the move to a high-profiler conference should help.

 

Rutgers

Record over the last 5 years:
38-26 (16-19 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 66-58 (28-41 Big East)

Greg Schiano inherited a program that had won just 10 games in the four seasons prior to his arrival. His tenure got off to a slow start, as Rutgers won just eight games in Schiano’s first three years. However, he eventually turned the Scarlet Knights into a consistent bowl team. Rutgers won at least eight games in five out of Schiano’s final six seasons, including an 11-2 record in 2006.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

Schiano’s decision to depart for the NFL has clouded the immediate future of this program. Although new coach Kyle Flood has done a good job on the recruiting trail, he has no experience as a collegiate head coach. If Flood is able to build on what Schiano created, Rutgers will be in great shape for the next 10 years. However, Flood’s hire was an interesting decision for a program that struggled to find success throughout the 1990s. Schiano never won an outright Big East title, but there’s no question he left the program in much better shape than how he found it. 

 

South Florida

Record over the last 5 years:
38-26 (13-22 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 73-49 (21-28 Big East – 7 years)

The Bulls have come a long way since their first football game on Sept. 6, 1997. Over the last 10 years, South Florida has played in six bowl games and achieved a No. 2 ranking in 2007. Jim Leavitt had a messy end to his tenure in Tampa, but deserves credit for building the program from scratch to national relevance. Skip Holtz was hired to take South Florida to the next level, but he is just 13-12 in his two seasons with the Bulls.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

Florida will always have the Big 3 – Florida, Florida State and Miami – but there’s plenty of room for USF. The Bulls have an excellent recruiting base and there’s a lot of potential surrounding this program for 2012 and beyond. South Florida has underachieved at times, which holds it back from being placed in the “on the rise” category. Holtz is the right coach and should have the Bulls contending for a Big East title in future seasons. South Florida has been considered a sleeping giant, but considering its location, conference and potential, it should be able to be one of the top teams in the new Big East in 2013.

 

Syracuse

Record over the last 5 years: 22-39 (8-27 Big East)
Record over the last 10 years: 43-77 (17-52 Big East)

Although Syracuse has been a basketball power, it’s been a struggle to find success on the gridiron over the last 10 years. The Orange went 10-37 under Greg Robinson and has played in just one bowl game since 2005. Coach Doug Marrone took Syracuse to the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl, but is 9-15 in his other two seasons.

State of the Program: Holding Steady

It’s tough to peg where this program is headed. There’s certainly more potential for Syracuse than what has been shown in recent years, but after winning eight games in 2010, the Orange took a step back and finished with a 5-7 mark in 2011. Marrone is a good fit at Syracuse, but moving to the ACC isn’t going to make it any easier to win games. Although success has been limited, Marrone seems to have the program on the right track and could get back into the postseason in 2012.

 

Temple

Record over the last 5 years:
35-27 (no Big East games during this period)
Record over the last 10 years: 43-77 (3-17 Big East – 3 years)

It has been quite a roller coaster ride for Temple football over the last 10 years. The Owls were dismissed from the Big East in 2004 and were forced to play as an Independent before joining the MAC in 2007. Former coach Al Golden deserves a ton of credit for this program’s turnaround, as he took a team that had won only seven games in the four years prior to his arrival, to winning 10 over his first three seasons. Temple’s return to the Big East was huge for the conference in 2012, as it gives the Big East eight football members.

State of the Program: On the Rise

Can Steve Addazio keep it going? That’s the big question facing Temple in 2012 and beyond. He had a successful debut season, but he has no proven track record as a head coach. Addazio’s background in the Northeast will help the Owls in recruiting, along with the move to a higher profile conference. Temple may struggle to get to a bowl in 2012, especially with the amount of roster turnover experienced from last season’s team. The Owls aren’t ready to challenge for a spot in the top 25, but they certainly won’t return to the struggles this program had in the 1990s. 
 

By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)


2012 Big East Previews

Cincinnati Rutgers
Connecticut South Florida
Louisville Syracuse
Pittsburgh Temple

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