By Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven on Twitter)
Finally. After losing Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC in September and West Virginia to the Big 12 in late October, the Big East is ready to expand. According to CBSSports.com, the conference will formally add Boise State, Houston, San Diego State, SMU and UCF. The Big East is expected to announce the additions on Wednesday.
Houston, SMU and UCF will join for all spots, while Boise State and San Diego State may send its other sports to the WAC.
All five teams are expected to join in time for the 2013 season. However, there could be some leeway with that date. The Big East plans to hold Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia to its exit agreement (27 months). However, the Mountaineers are suing to leave the Big East in time for the 2012 season.
If West Virginia does leave the conference next season, could Boise State join in time for 2012? The Broncos would have to pay a large exit fee, but it would be worth it for the automatic bid into the BCS. Boise State is rebuilding next season, but assuming West Virginia leaves, the conference race is wide open.
With the defections of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, the future of the Big East was uncertain. However, the conference has stabilized – at least for now – with the addition of five teams.
Despite the expansion, the Big East can’t let its guard down. Rutgers and Connecticut have been rumored as possible targets for future ACC expansion, while Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati are believed to be on the radar for the Big 12.
Although the Big East could lose teams in the future, getting the conference to 12 members by 2013 or 2014 will at least help to build a solid foundation.
The Big East is expected to add two more teams – likely Air Force and Navy – in the near future. However, Air Force is still trying to decide if it wants to make the move or not. If the Falcons do not join the Big East, Temple or East Carolina would figure to be the next team to get an invitation. BYU was believed to have some interest in joining the Big East, but the two sides were unable to come to an agreement.
Although the geography and the name of the conference make this an odd fit, it makes sense for both parties. The Big East needed to do something to assure its survival. Without any expansion, the conference was looking at having just five football teams in place for 2014.
For the teams joining the conference, this allows Boise State, San Diego State, Houston, UCF, SMU, Navy and Air Force a chance to have an automatic bid into the BCS for at least one season. There may be changes to the BCS bowls starting in 2014, but it seems unlikely automatic qualification will be completely removed from the equation. Also, this move should benefit the revenue stream for the incoming schools. The Big East is expected to sign a new television deal, which will help with exposure and money.
A history of the five new Big East teams and their previous conferences (Since 1970)
Boise State: Big Sky (1970-95), Big East (1996-00), WAC (2001-2010), Mountain West (2011)
Houston: Independent (1970-75), Southwest (1976-95), Conference USA (1996-current)
San Diego State: Pacific Coast (1970-77), WAC (1978-98), Mountain West (1999-curent)
SMU: 1970-95 (Southwest), 1996-2004 (WAC), Conference USA (2005-current)
UCF: Independent (1996-01), MAC (2002-04), Conference USA (2005-current)
Here’s what the Big East could look like in 2014 – assuming Air Force and Navy join.
Navy – Expected to join
San Diego State
Quick thoughts on the five new Big East members
Boise State – There’s no question Boise State is the crown jewel of Big East expansion. The Broncos have been one of the most successful teams in college football over the last 10 years and have played in two BCS bowls. Boise State is making facility and stadium improvements, as well as finding ways to keep coach Chris Petersen happy. The Broncos heavily recruit Texas and California, so playing in a division with San Diego State, Houston and SMU makes a lot of sense.
Houston – Although a loss to Southern Miss ended the Cougars’ chances of getting to a BCS bowl, this has emerged as a consistent winner in Conference USA. Also, Houston is making a commitment to upgrading the facilities, which are needed to continue moving up the ladder in program/conference rankings. Another solid recruiting area and television market for the Big East.
San Diego State – The Aztecs have had only two winning seasons since 2000, but has made back-to-back bowls. In order for Boise State to join the Big East, it wanted to have a Western partner, and San Diego State is a good fit. The Aztecs are taking a step down in basketball, but this should help with exposure for their football program.
SMU – The Mustangs are a team on the rise in Conference USA, making three consecutive bowl games under coach June Jones. SMU is also located in Dallas, a good television and recruiting market for the Big East.
UCF – The Knights are finally in the Big East. After years of wanting to get into the conference, UCF is ready for its debut in a BCS conference. The Knights are located in a terrific state for recruiting and opened a new stadium in 2007. Everything seems to be in place for UCF to be a consistent winner in the Big East.