Jump to content

UAlbany Athletics- America East-
SOCIAL MEDIA: UAlbany Facebook- UAlbany Instagram- UAlbany Twitter- UAlbany Blog-
MEDIA: Albany Student Press- America East TV- ESPN3- Schenectady Gazette- The Team 104.5 ESPN Radio- The Team 104.5 ESPN Radio Archive interviews- Times Union College Sports- Times Union Sports- WCDB- WOFX 980-
WINTER SPORTS LINKS: College Insider- Pomeroy Ratings- Real TimeRPI-
SPRING SPORTS LINKS: Inside Lacrosse- Lax Power Backup Stick-
OTHER FORUMS: America East Forum- Any Given Saturday Forum- Championship Subdivision forum(1-AA Discussion) The Hen House - Siena Forum- Stony Brook Forum- Vermont Forum

"Big East football enjoying elevated stature"

Recommended Posts

some good lessons for us.


By Jack Carey, USA TODAY

When Miami (Fla.), Virginia Tech and Boston College announced in 2003 they were bolting the Big East to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, the league's future as a major player in big-time football seemed in peril.

The Big East suddenly became the smallest of the Bowl Championship Series conferences with eight teams, and it even was thought to be in jeopardy of losing its BCS status.


Those thoughts have turned out to be inaccurate.


The key for the Big East now, and into the future, Commissioner Mike Tranghese says, is sustaining last season's surprising success. West Virginia, Louisville and Rutgers finished in the top 12 of the USA TODAY Coaches' Poll, and that trio plus Cincinnati and South Florida had bowl wins, giving the Big East a 5-0 postseason record, best of any league.


Perhaps the best way to move forward, Tranghese says, is to put last season in the rearview mirror as quickly as possible.


"That was Cinderella, and I think we're tired of talking about Cinderella," Tranghese says. "What we are is one of six conferences with an automatic berth in the BCS, and we're competing … at the highest level.


"The season's going to start. And if you win, they're going to say this is a continuation of last year and it's great. But if you lose, you're going to be criticized.


"But that's what you get from being one of the six (BCS) conferences. It's what happens with the ACC, the SEC and the Big Ten, and that's what we want. We want to be treated like the five (other BCS leagues) are."


A down period for the Big East or individual teams no longer will be viewed as potentially disastrous, Tranghese says.


"Cyclically, everybody is going to get bit. But the difference is if you get bit (now), it's not the end of the world," he says. "A couple of years ago, people were saying the SEC was down. I laughed at that. They've got players, but I think we've got players, and I think our recruiting is better than it's ever been."


Tranghese is right about at least one thing. The Big East does have players, including four legitimate preseason Heisman Trophy candidates: Louisville's Brian Brohm, Rutgers' Ray Rice and West Virginia's Steve Slaton and Pat White.


It has teams, too.


Although the preseason USA TODAY Coaches' Poll and the Associated Press media rankings won't be released until next month, West Virginia, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida have been ranked in the top 25 in various preseason publications. The Mountaineers were picked to win the Big East by media members who cover the conference.


"I look at this league from top to bottom, and I challenge you to find a league that has as good an amount of parity as we have right now," says new Louisville coach Steve Kragthorpe, who came from Tulsa to take the reins of the defending Big East champion. "I think this is going to be a very competitive league.


"This league has quality football players and great coaches who put a great product on the field."


Brohm, the Cardinals' quarterback, says his team found stiffer competition last season from the Big East than from non-conference opponents from the Southeastern, Atlantic Coast and Big 12 conferences. From those leagues, they beat Kentucky, Miami (Fla.), and Kansas State, who had a combined 22-17 record.


"I just think that says so much about how tough it is, top to bottom, in the Big East," he says. "Really, there's no game that we looked at that we thought, 'Well, we've got that one. We don't have to work as hard this week.' Every game was tough."


Fresh beginnings


Rutgers coach Greg Schiano says when Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati joined the league two seasons ago, a year after Division I-A neophyte Connecticut was brought in, it essentially meant the Big East was starting over.


"I don't think you could envision it rebounding this quickly," says West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, whose team set the stage for the league's comeback by upsetting Georgia in the Sugar Bowl two seasons ago. "If you had asked Greg or myself or (UConn coach) Randy Edsall (the only current coaches working in the Big East in 2004), we'd probably have said, 'Give us four or five or six years, and we'll be back.'


"Rebounding pretty quickly is usually harder in football because there are so many players involved, and to rebound as quickly as we have is really remarkable."


The key, Rodriguez says, is a willingness by administrators to make the moves necessary to thrive.


"When the commitment comes from the institution, from the athletic director and the president regarding facilities and staff, that's a sign that a school is going to get better," he says.


"And every school in this (league) has done that. That's why our league has gotten better. We've got good coaches, good athletic directors and institutions that are supporting them."


A year ago, a contract extension for Rodriguez came with a plan to upgrade salaries of assistant coaches and improve facilities.


This year, Rodriguez received another boost when he turned down overtures from Alabama to stay at his alma mater. His new extension goes through 2014 and puts his salary at $2 million a year. Schiano spurned Miami, a former employer, and Rutgers gave him a contract extension through 2016 at $1.6 million a year.


In the summer of 2006, Louisville gave then-coach Bobby Petrino a 10-year extension worth a minimum of $25.5 million. However, he bolted in January for the NFL's Atlanta Falcons. Kragthorpe, Petrino's successor, has a five-year deal worth $1.1 million a year.


Rosy Rutgers


The Big East also took advantage last year of a schedule and television package that enabled it to command nationwide attention.


Louisville, West Virginia and Rutgers were undefeated heading into November. On Nov. 2, the Cardinals beat the Mountaineers in an ESPN Thursday night telecast, The following Thursday, Rutgers topped visiting Louisville on a last-second field goal on ESPN.


"I think, all of a sudden, the country took a look and said: 'These people are pretty good,' " Tranghese says. "Everybody who is anybody in college football saw those games, and it had an incredible impact."


The games drew eye-popping national ratings of 5.3 and 5.0, respectively, and the Rutgers-Louisville game in New Jersey pulled an 8.1 rating in nearby New York, the nation's largest television market.


Those numbers, Tranghese says, prompted the Rose Bowl to express interest in inviting Rutgers if the Knights had run the table and won the league, and if Southern California qualified for the national title game, pushing it out of the Rose. Neither happened, but the thought of the Scarlet Knights possibly heading for Pasadena, was "staggering," Tranghese says.


"We were definitely monitoring them very closely, and we were talking to our TV partners about what the impact of that matchup would be," Rose Bowl executive director Mitch Dorger says. "There's a huge media audience there. They bring a whole region of interest."


The league hopes to repeat the Thursday night success this year when Louisville plays at West Virginia on Nov. 8 and Rutgers visits the Cardinals on Nov. 29.


Schiano and South Florida coach Jim Leavitt say the league's re-emergence is a boon to recruiting, and there's no more talk of the Big East having a diminished standing.


"It's not an issue anymore," Schiano says. "It was three years ago when the ACC made the move, but it hadn't been played out yet. Now when it begins to be played out, the on-field results are speaking well for the Big East. So, it's gone away as an issue."


Leavitt, whose team has beaten Louisville and West Virginia its first two years in the league, says with so many Big East schools recruiting in the Sunshine State, his program got an identity boost.


"We don't have to prove ourselves anymore," Leavitt says of the Big East. "We are a solid BCS conference that may be one of the better ones. We're solid, and there's no going back."



Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...