Like a lot of Boise State fans, I am starting to be a little dismayed with the Big East Conference. Namely, the recent events to add Memphis and Temple as members in all sports without regard to adding members that could continue to build a true "Western Division" of the league. Using the "geography-is-not-important" argument, the Big East appears to be throwing its two western schools under the bus. It now appears that when the Big East Conference promised western partners for the new western division it was only referring to schools west of the Allegheny Mountains while most of us out west were thinking west of the Rockies---or at the very least west of the Mississippi River.
This new 12-team expanded football league was supposed to be committed to football, BCS, and television contracts, and not dominated with basketball teams which was supposed to be considered a separate entity. At least Big East commissioner John Marinatto and Boise State's president Bob Kustra said as much.
So how did Memphis and now Temple get into the mix? Ask Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. He wanted them.In 2011 the Memphis Tigers only had an average attendance of 20,078 football fans at home games. Add to that a TV market rated #49 nationally. Yet Memphis was selected over a true western team like, say, the UNLV Rebels who has about the same home attendance record average with 20,612 fans. But UNLV also has sole possession the #40 TV market in the nation, it is one of the nation's greatest away-game destinations for fans of all conferences. And if the Big East wanted another basketball team, the Running Rebels are one of the best basketball programs in the country.
And now the Big East is likely to add Temple of the Mid-American Conference. Sure they averaged 32,691 fans for home games and are getting better in football and even went 9-4 last season. So is that more impressive than a Fresno State who can still put an average of 34,120 home game fans in an off year while getting ready for a future with a new head coach Tim DeRuyter, formerly of Texas A&M? The Fresno St. Bulldogs team is a nationally recognized brand and raises the question as to if Temple football can deliver the huge Philly market dominated by the NFL better than Fresno State can deliver northern California and the entire west coast. Go figure.
Hawaii is another top-tier football team, with good BCS numbers, a national following and an average home game attendance of 37,311, not to mention a decent media market ranked #71. They could join the Big East this year for football only if the Big East only needed a WV replacement team. And just like Navy, they also have a national following. If geography is not important, why not the Warriors?
But this article is not a pitch to poach more teams from the Mountain West Conference, but only to highlight the direction the Big East is beginning to take now that they are content to get Boise State's BCS numbers. You have to admit that it would seem a better plan for both Memphis and Temple to be added for basketball-only and serious consideration given to teams such as UNLV, Fresno State and Hawaii as football-only members. Or at least hold out to see if Air Force or BYU will reconsider once Navy joins in 2015. As it is, the Big East fans better hope BCS indeed goes away, because the BCS numbers and the arguments for a better TV contract might have just gotten a lot weaker with the additions of both Memphis and Temple.
Perhaps Boise State president Bob Kustra and San Diego State president Elliot Hirshman are both starting to feel a poke in the eye with a new reality: their power in their new conference is very limited. Perhaps they both need to step back to take a hard, cold look at the recent football-related events in the Big East before they sell their souls to a basketball conference for a pot of money. While Big East commissioner John Marinatto means well, it is also getting more clear he's clearly not the one in charge.
Ain't no one is getting into the Big East Conference for football that isn’t approved of by Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino.