Please ACC?! Please?! Please?!
No, sorry WVU.
Please SEC?! Please?! Please?!
No, sorry WVU.
Please BIGXII?! Please?! Please?!
Yes, I mean no, I mean we’ll think about it.
Is it just me or is all of this begging more than WVU nation can bear?
Even if the BIGXII deigns to accept WVU’s plea, the BIGXII would be a terrible conference for the Mountaineers. Look at the WVU roster. Few if any players from the plains states compared to an irreplaceable core from Florida. Any future conference WVU is in must maintain a footprint in Florida. The BIGXII does not.
Furthermore, it would be a conference of a bunch of central time zone plains schools and one eastern time zone school. They would always be the “us” and WVU always the “them.”
But if WVU’s choices are between the BIGXII with its disadvantages or losing out on AQ status, the BIGXII with its strong AQ status wins.
Are those WVU’s only choices?
We have all heard pundits explain how the exit of WVU from the Big East would effectively kill the Big East as an automatic qualifier BCS conference. They reason that WVU is the strongest football brand in the conference and without it there would not be enough aggregate football brand to maintain AQ status.
So if WVU’s presence can save the conference, why is WVU playing the role of the beggar instead of conference savior? Why allow others to determine WVU’s fate instead of leading?
Some might answer the reason is because the Big East brand, at least insofar as it pertains to football, is not worth saving. It has suffered from successive defections and it is no secret that its current members have all been looking for new homes.
Why is everyone jumping ship? At first it was due to money and exposure. The Big East television contracts were the lowest of any AQ conference. The on field performance has been perceived as the lowest of any AQ confer earning the conference the nick name of “Big Least.”
The problem is no longer one of status among the AQ conferences. Now it is more of a matter of survival as an AQ conference. And with the departure of Pitt and SU, losing AQ status looks inevitable.
It looks like WVU and the Big East have nothing but sour lemons.
We all know what we do with lemons: make lemonade.
In this case, the lemonade maker will not be the current Big East leadership. It has proven ineffective time and again. It will have to be WVU. WVU will have to assert itself as the conference leader by pulling an Oklahoma. Oklahoma, fed up with Texas strong arming the conference, threatened to defect unless the BIGXII fire Beebe and come to the table with an eye to revenue sharing. It worked. The BIGXII was brought back from the brink of death and looks poised to whether the foreseeable future.
WVU could accomplish the same by offering to commit to the conference long term through a 10 year commitment of TV rights but only if the current Big East administration is ousted in favor of a hand selected WVU figure. WVU asserting itself would not be to play the role as bully but savior.
The lemonade WVU would make is 1) to abandon the tarnished Big East football brand in favor of a new, fresh brand and 2) to invite enough quality programs to breathe life into the conference and ensure survival as an AQ conference.
The Big East is unique among the AQ conferences in that it has substantial numbers of non-Football members. The Big East as a basketball brand is arguably the strongest in college athletics. The Big East tournament is one of the most watched events in NCAA BB. The Big East basketball brand is worth saving.
For Football, the Big East brand is a liability and is in desperate need of rebranding. In particular, it should be rebranded in such a way that frees it from geographical ties to the Eastern Time Zone. This would allow invitations to 6 schools from other time zones on a FB only basis to form BEF-West with a BEF-East consisting of the current members or replacements, if needed.
To that end, I propose “Big East Football” which would be branded as “BEF” and pronounced as “Beef.”
BEF can easily retain conference status by retaining its current 6 FB members or the current 6 less Louisville, and then invited 6 football only schools from other time zones.
It just so happens that there are six compelling, winning football programs in the ranks of the non-AQ conferences that could accomplish this.
Where will BEF find these programs?
Lets start by looking to a program that has the winningest records in the last few years; Boise State University. BSU is not in a huge media market and does not sit in a recruiting hotbed. However, it will give a bigger boost to BEF for retaining AQ status than any other program. Further, BSU has a compelling brand and folks across the country tune in when they play.
As a partner to BSU, the BEF should look to a program that sits two hours drive on the interstate from the nation’s most productive single recruiting area. That recruiting area is the greater Los Angeles area and that school is San Diego State University. SDSU would give WVU and the conference access to SoCal recruiting and fresh, new feel. SoCal is certainly BSU’s single largest recruiting site making this choice a perfect pair with BSU. San Diego is not only close to LA, it is a solid mid-sized city in its own right having an MLB and NFL team, for example. SDSU is 4-2 this year and went 9-4 with a bowl appearance last year. They have struggled in the past and are not a home run school like BSU but the link to SoCal and the recent on field success make this an easy choice.
Next would be court a current independent that has the largest fan base outside of ND and the AQ schools: BYU. BYU has a national championship under its belt and very rarely suffers from a losing season. Like BSU, BYU does not sit in a big media market or fertile recruiting grounds but what it lacks in those areas it makes up for in enjoying the loyalty of the worldwide LDS community. BYU is a proud program and is a serious consideration of the BIGXII right now. However, with a push by Texas to keep the BIGXII at 10, BYU might just be available.
Another target already scheduled to host Big East officials on a tour is the only western service academy, Air Force. Air Force does not have much local pull in terms of TV sets and fans. However, AF obviously enjoys the attention of the greater USAF community and is a winning program with a 28-18 record since 2008.
The next two schools lay in the nation’s 3rd and 5th biggest TV markets and two of the nation’s ripest recruiting grounds of Dallas and Houston. Southern Methodist University, located in Dallas, is a former football power and former national champion that is down on its luck since its exclusion from the BIGXII after the dissolution of the Southwest Conference in the 1990s. SMU has been to bowls in the last two seasons and has a strong, affluent alumni base. The University of Houston is an up and coming program that is currently undefeated. It has very large enrollment and has great upside. Even if these two programs did not excel on the football field, they will contribute to the health of the conference by exposing the schools to fertile Texas recruiting.
These six schools have a combined record since 2008 of 177-98. Compare that to 165 -109 for the remaining 6 Big East schools in the same period. That is a lot of wins, a lot of compelling brands, a lot of major TV markets, and access to the best 3 recruiting areas outside of Florida. The BEF West would be no slouch.
The BEF East may or may not fight to retain Louisville. If Louisville defects, Navy or UCF would make great substitutions. UCF brings Orlando and greater Florida exposure – a great perk for WVU, while Navy brings an excellent winning record for purpose of conference AQ retention.
Bringing unity to these far flung schools would require WVU to step up its role. The flaccid leadership of the current Big East does not comment much confidence among prospective expansion schools. BYU in particular would not join unless it had assurances of WVU remaining (and WVU was the one doing the asking). As a 12 team conference, BEF would be stronger than the current Big East with Pitt and SU. In other words, it would be an upgrade for WVU.
So why are we begging?
 Travel to these cross-division schools would be football only and would occur 1.5 times per year in an 8 game schedule and 2 times a year in a 9 game schedule. Hardly anything to upset the current FB members.