Recruiting in college football is downright nasty. It is a cutthroat, cannibalistic big business that is microscopically analyzed by fans, administrators and media members alike. There is very little to get excited about when it comes to Big East football and the recruiting trail is no different. But the 2013 class could be historically bad for a league that is accustomed to being ranked at the bottom of the power conferences.
Bad for business… as usual
Rarely do Big East teams press for elite recruiting classes, so its no shock that the best in the league was outside of the top 25. However, this season was particularly bad for the conference as the top class, Rutgers, could do no better than 40th nationally. Additionally, no other team finished in the top 50 this year. By comparison, Rutgers was 22nd nationally a year ago while Louisville was 38th and both Pitt and USF landed in the top 50 nationally. Even 2013 member Houston was 47th nationally in recruiting a year ago. No, 2013 was epically poor even for a normally very weak recruiting conference. The Big East is on life support, and if recruiting is the lifeblood of the sport, the conference clearly isn’t getting enough blood.
Where is the AC100 talent?
This might be redundant, but the Big East signed the fewest Athlon Consensus 100 prospects of any major league in the nation. One AC100 prospect signed with the entire conference, and even he, wide receiver James Quick, will be playing most of his career in the ACC. Nothing can illustrate the talent differential between the Big East and the nation’s best conference, the SEC, better than the 2013 Athlon Consensus 100. Southeastern Conference schools signed a combined total of 41 AC100 prospects.
Okay, now it’s just piling on
Missouri is the lowest rated class in the SEC at 35th. Kansas State is the lowest rated class in the Big 12 at 64th. Colorado is the lowest rated class in the Pac-12 at 67th. Minnesota is the worst class in the Big Ten at 69th. This means that nine “BCS” conference teams ranked 68th or worse this year and four of them come from the Big East while two others were former Big East teams (Syracuse, Boston College). Only Minnesota was 68th or worse and not a member of the Big East or ACC. Memphis finished with the worst power conference class in the nation.
It's only getting worse
Rutgers and Louisville have dominated this league in terms of attracting talent of late and once again claimed the top two classes in 2013. There is only one problem, however: none of these players will play in the Big East. Technically, anyone who plays in 2013 will get one year of Big East action, but both teams are departing the league following this season. The Knights are headed to the Big Ten in 2014 while the Cardinals are joining the ACC. Can a league survive when its best recruiting class is ranked 57th in the nation (USF)?
Houston can contend immediately
The Cougars are one of the lone bright spots for this league and should develop into one of the Big East's better programs over time. The 2013 season will be a year of transition for the four new members of the conference, but only the Cougars appear ready to compete right away. Houston beat more traditional Big East teams Cincinnati, UConn, Temple and former member Syracuse for talent in this class. Even a year ago, the Cougars' 47th-rated class would have been good for fourth in the conference. It means that Houston should be able to build its franchise as a Big East title contender by cultivating the rich waters of The Lone Star State.
Can Tommy Tuberville maintain status quo
Mark Dantonio. Brian Kelly. Butch Jones. All three recruited at a mediocre level nationally and all three used conference championship runs to land big-time jobs. Tuberville isn't an up-and-comer like the Bearcats' previous head coaches, so he isn't necessarily looking to move on right away. But he will have some lofty standards to maintain and will have to do it with classes ranked consistently in the 50s. Will he elevate the recruiting status of the program or can he win the league with middle-of-the-pack recruiting hauls?
2013 Athlon Sports Big East Team Recruiting Rankings: