Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

02 Nov 2011

Report: Big East Extends Six Invites

In this week's As the Conference Turns...

The Big East has reportedly finalized its invitations to the best of the rest, meeting yesterday to vote on sending them out to Houston, Boise State, SMU, Navy, Air Force, and Central Florida.

With how little of the actual Big East is still intact at this point, it is still unknown if this will be enough to keep their oft-criticized automatic BCS bid. On the bright side, the Big East now almost stretches to the Far East.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 02 Nov 2011

34 comments, Last at 07 Nov 2011, 12:09am by Anonymous1


by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 12:59pm

I thought they were merging into a 78-team mega-conference. What ever happened to that idiotic plan?

As for the auto-bid, it'll probably stay intact. Boise State is better than any team the Big East has had for a while. But more importantly, you know there will be some back room deals done to keep the Big East at the big kids' table.

by zlionsfan :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 2:21pm

It's going to be more difficult for them to pull off that stuff now that the formula for determining BCS qualification is on the table. (There is always the possibility that they will run the formula and throw it out anyway, or that the Mount US conference won't be strong enough to overcome the Big Everywhere ...)

Sure, if it were just Boise State coming in, the Big East would stand to gain, but unfortunately they're looking for quantity rather than quality, and that's all they're getting. Houston and Boise State balance out Pitt and West Virginia, and Air Force kind of balances out Syracuse, but that leaves Navy, SMU, and UCF, all of which are playing at a pace that will drag down the Big East's average when (if) they arrive in 2013, the last of the four-year period that will determine BCS qualifiers for 2014.

The timing may be an issue as well. Losing West Virginia before adding Boise State will hurt, especially if the Mountaineers can stay in the BCS top 25. Adding some of the other schools early, if possible, might hurt the Big East's numbers even as it helps the conference maintain some semblance of a football presence. (The ACC isn't pushing to get Pitt and Syracuse yet, but if the Big 12 succeeds in getting West Virginia out early, that might change.)

The Mountain West is in worse shape than the Big East: they simply can't get quality teams to replace the ones they're losing. Available teams tend to be at the bottom of the list, and that's going to take out whatever slim chances they had of overtaking the Big East.

by Dennis :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 8:02pm

The Big East isn't going to lose its automatic bid. According to the info from the BCS website, the formula only applies to adding conferences to the BCS, not conferences losing their automatic bids. From the official BCS website:

"The 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons are being evaluated to determine if a seventh conference achieves automatic qualification for the BCS games that will conclude the 2012 and 2013 seasons."

It says nothing about using the evaluation to remove conferences from having AQ status.


by CuseFanInSoCal :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 10:38pm

Which is why the Big East's AQ isn't going anywhere before 2013. And why the BCS' web site says nothing about anything after the 2013 season; the BCS is not guaranteed to even exist after that (and would go away if the conferences, bowls, and TV networks did nothing). But they draw up new contracts every four years, and there's nothing that guarantees the zombie Big East a spot at the AQ table in the next set of contracts.

by sundown (not verified) :: Fri, 11/04/2011 - 3:54pm

If there were no danger of the Big East losing their automatic bid they certainly wouldn't be running around in a panic like they are now. If they fail to land Boise State, that automatic bid is as good as gone. There's absolutely no way they'd hold onto that compared to that new Mountain West/MAC combo conference. It wouldn't even be just the volume of teams, it'd be the fact that most of the quality teams would be in the other conference.

by andrew :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 1:58pm

The Big Conference (with two divisions: Big East and Big West)
Ig Beast Conference
Big G Conference
Big Least Conference
Deceased Conference
Biggy's Conference
Big Easy Conference
Bigby Conference (where any attempt to leave the conference will be blocked by Bigby's Interposing Hand)

by Rivers McCown :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 2:31pm

Name it the Atari Bigby Conference and I'm in.

2600 and 5200 divisions, and it'll be just as relevant on the scene as the real thing.

by Guido Merkens :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 2:13pm

I can't imagine that all this realignment nonsense won't eventually end in a playoff. The fact that the NCAA hasn't already seen the dollar signs speaks to what an inept organization it is.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 3:23pm

The problem the NCAA has is that while March Madness is really lucrative for the NCAA and a football playoff would be as well, the Bowls are really lucrative to the conferences and member schools, because the NCAA doesn't get a cut. Until the BCS-era, bowl games weren't even officially sanctioned NCAA games!

by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 3:31pm

Exactly. It's not about how much money, it's about who gets it. There's more total money to be made on a playoff, but it wouldn't go to the same people who are cashing in now.

by Dennis :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 7:52pm

That's the biggest myth. Aside from the BCS bowls, most of the bowls are break-even propositions for the schools at best. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-12-23/college-football-winners-still-...

by Kal :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 8:51pm

"Bowls are really lucrative to the conferences and member schools"

Yeah, that's really not the case. Even for the BCS title game each school lost about $500k to go to the game. Now, the extra practice time for that month is super valuable to each team and it does make money for the conferences to a small extent, but compared to TV revenues, tickets, actual attendance? The only people who are winning in the bowl system is the bowl owners themselves.

by tuluse :: Thu, 11/03/2011 - 2:15am

Even for the BCS title game each school lost about $500k to go to the game

In the Big Ten all bowl money is split evenly among the 12 teams. So if they are losing 500k by taking in 1/12 of the money from a bowl game that is probably a win and when they get the money from the rest of the bowl games probably make a good deal.

by Jim is rad (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 3:34pm

The NCAA would kill to have a football playoff its the schools and AQ conference Commissioners that want nothing to do with a playoff and for good reason there is no money in it for them and they have seen what it has done to Mens basketball.

For all the talk that FCS and D2 and such have a playoff they also only play 10 game regular seasons. That means 450ish games will never be played at D1 that is a lot of money both in gate and TV revenue.

The powers that be also have seen what happens with the Mens tournment. The NCAA takes their 35 percent cut of the contract. The nobodies of the world get invited to the big stage with the schools that actually produce the value in the sport. More importantly the little sisters of the poor get an equal cut for every slot taken. Now that we are in the Big 5 and half era say there is a 16 team NCAA playoff that is 6 and half slots going to bad conferences that have no buisness on the field like Troy, Buffalo, Hawaii and the like. Troy makes the same amount of money as Alabama would for there first round matchup when 80 percent of AQ teams would win against Troy.

Next problem is who is going to pay for this? All the talk about a playoff will make more money ignores reality. A playoff will take place either in December when 2 of the lowest rated weeks of TV or in Jan against the NFL playoffs good luck finding a network to pay here. On top of that what network is going to want to pay top dollar for that Bama Troy matchup or Nebraska Buffalo matchup? After accounting for the NCAA cut and giving money to the nobodies and loss of 3 regular season games the big boys will be lossing millions each school.

by Mello :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 8:36pm

I don't get that. Why couldn't they form a playoff without the NCAA and divide the money by conference and school? Just invite the top team of each BCS conference and the highest BCS ranking of the rest to get to 8 teams. That way, only a Boise St. like small school could get in. I find it hard to believe the ratings would be low in that case. Games Friday night and all day Saturday wouldn't compete with the NFL often.

Also, the schedule length is a red herring. Conference championships are already the first weekend in Dec with exams the following week. All more games will do is give teams less practice time. Is that a horrible thing? This year since Christmas falls on Sunday and the NFL has moved most games to Saturday, the best schedule would be to have the first round on the 16th and 17th. Semis on the 31st. Championship game whenever they want. Most years, they could push the first round to the 2nd to last weekend of Dec.

by Jim is rad (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 10:29pm

First issue there is a NCAA rule that states that any post season tournment must be run by the NCAA. The Second issue is someone has to run the post season tournment and be the commerical rights holder and the schools and conferences are not equipped to do it be it for logistal reasons and legal reasons.

The playoff scedule you just described is DOA. The problem is no one watches TV from roughly the 15th of December to December 31st. These are 2 of the lowest watched tv weeks of the year. Networks are not going to pay the amount of money needed to get SEC and Big 10 presidents on the phone to even listen.

The schedule length is also a huge issue. Schools are not going to let a team play 17 to 18 games. There are so many reasons this will not happen. Bama would like to see there players stay in school for 4 years and anyone that could be drafted would be gone after their 3rd year playing that many unpaid games to avoid injury. The press will have a field day over head injury issues and that many games as well as missing classes even after crying about a playoff for years. The number of academic issues will be huge.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 11:06pm

FCS championship game participants routinely play 16 games (11 regular season + conference championship + 4 playoff games), and could easily play 17 in the future (the FCS playoffs are expanding to 20 teams). In many states, high school championship game participants play 16 games. In fact, FBS football is the only level of organized football in the US where the champions don't routinely play at least 16 games.

The logistical issues involved with a Wetzel-style playoff (16 teams, 11 conference champs + 5 at-large, all games except championship @ home of highest seed) are trivial compared to the NCAA division I basketball tournaments, and I can't believe you're seriously arguing the NCAA FBS playoffs would be a ratings dud (rather than a blockbuster). It's much more likely that a 16 team (and hence 15-game -> 8 + 4 + 2 + 1) FBS playoff would in fact be far more valuable as a TV property than all the bowls combined (including the BCS championship game).

Academic arguments against a playoff are bunk (or at least nonsense from anyone who doesn't want to shut the basketball tournament down). Since a football playoff would largely take place over most schools' winter break, and would play no games on weekdays, it's far less likely to cause academic issues than the basketball playoffs (which take place during mid-terms for schools on semesters and during finals for schools on quarters, and play on weekdays).

by Jim is rad (not verified) :: Thu, 11/03/2011 - 12:06am

The academic issues I was talking about have more to deal with players becoming ineglibale at the power schools.

I disagree that a Wetzel style playoff would be more valuable than the bowls combined. The reason is simple no one wants to see the Big East as it is now you are adding the water downed Big East along with 5 other little sister of the poor. That is 30 percent of the field. Why would ESPN/FOX/Comcast want to pay for this? Add on that games will have to be played on 2 of the lowest watched weeks of TV of the year. The Outback bowl is more valuable than some of the matchups in the first week you will see.

The logistics are a nightmare in the Wetzel playoffs. Good luck finding air line tickets into Bama or Oklahoma on one week notice for 20k plus visiting fans let alone hotels on that short notice. That is if these areas even have enough people still in town to run the football economy with kids going home for the holidays. Never mind you are asking for 20k plus to give up every week in the busiest social month of the year. Just imagine though that Boise has to host a home playoff game this year against Nebraska how is that 32k stadium going to come close to holding that swarm of red?

Right now the SEC and Big 10 have bowl payouts that total over 50 million a year. Just to break even they will need 50k for the first week of playoffs. Lets assume for a moment that they send 2 each year that is 750 million just in school payouts. The commerical rights holder is going to want their 3rd so you are talking about a total deal that needs to be in the neighborhood of 1.15 billion to break even for the big boys right now. Again this is just for the SEC and Big 10 to stay where they are at while everyone else is going to get a bump so probably need to add significantly more to get there votes.

What network is going to pay this kind of money to show games either during weeks when no one watches TV and you pretty much have to have games on Friday another night no one watches TV or against the NFL playoffs?

What happens to the sport when second tier teams like Michigan St, UCLA, Tenn, Okie St, and the like go 20 years between playoff appearances? Are the fan bases going to continue to show up? I ask this sincerely as I really believe a playoff will end up killing the sport. I have no worries about my aluma mater its a football factory that while hit hard times has a very bright future and will be in the playoffs more often than not.

by zenbitz :: Thu, 11/03/2011 - 1:18pm

I think this is why the big conferences are expanding - and will expand to 14 or 16 - they want to shut out the weak sister conferences and teams from a playoff.

Round 1 of the "playoffs" will be BETWEEN divisions of a 16 team conference - and so a team like UCLA can occasionally win the Pac-16 South and get a playoff for the right to play the B16 / ACC / SEC champ.

I am not sure how the "mid-majors" (Boise State, TT, TCU) fit into this... but I assume (the good football programs from) the Big-East and Big 12 are parted out.

by zenbitz :: Thu, 11/03/2011 - 1:29pm

by the way - this structure also keeps most of the BCS Bowl "Brand" intact with Rose/Orange/Sugar either being the conference championship itself or the 2nd round (say Rose = Pac16 vs Big16). You could even keep the rotation more or less in place in the latter scenario.

So year 0:
Rose = Pac16 vs Big16
Sugar = SEC vs. ACC
Orange = National Championship

year 1:
Sugar = SEC vs Big16
Orange = Pac-16 vs ACC
Rose = National Championship

year 2:
Orange = ACC vs Big16
Rose = Pac16 vs. SEC
Sugar = National Championship

Fiesta bowl gets screwed by not having strong ties to the big 4.

by Camp Bras (not verified) :: Thu, 11/03/2011 - 2:06pm

It could get screwed, not necessarily. You could easily have 4 more bowls jumping in as Conference championship games -Fiesta, Cotton and other 2.

You just keep all other bowls below "Championship Level" and tradition is somewhat saved.

Your plan also brings a playoff system that is not dressed as a playoff system, possibly leaving NCAA hands out of the money.

by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 3:50pm

if we could get it down to 4 main conferences - ACC, SEC, Pac10, Big10 - then it would make sense for those conferences to re-arrange the championship game to where the champions of those 4 conferences play each other, say the ACC plays the SEC and the PAC10 plays the Big10 in a BCS playoff bowl game in the first week of january, and then they could play a championship game between the two winners the weekend before the superbowl.

by zenbitz :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 4:20pm

I think this is where college football is going. I think that the big 4 will absorb the remnants of the big 12 and big east and have 16 teams each. Probably the confs are trying to do this while shorting the ncaa.

by Jim is rad (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 4:30pm

Why? Conferences only expand if it makes sense for them. To use the Big 10 as an example who are they going to add to go to 16? The only schools they are intrested in to expand at all are ND, Texas and maybe UNC or FSU both being very long shots. No other school will pay for itself. They might take a Maryland or Rutgers but that will only be as a partner for the school they really want. The Pac 12 is they same way they only will expand if Texas is part of it no one else makes sense for them including OU without Texas. The ACC is not going to take anyone else without ND.

The reason you see the SEC taking Mizzou is they could not find anyone better that wanted to join. The same goes for the Big 12 and WVU and TCU. The SEC and B12 needed these schools either to make life easier because 7/6 division cause so many problems in the long run or because they need the inventory.

by Drunkmonkey :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 6:09pm

OK, first of all, UNC is going NOWHERE. I find it more likely that Southern Cal joins the Big East tomorrow then UNC leaving the ACC. FSU would only leave the ACC if it became apparent that the conference was about to fold, since they have about as much clout as anybody else in the conference save UNC and Duke. I find it extremely hard to believe that any current ACC school would leave the conference as of now, especially since most of them are basketball driven schools, and really only care about that perception. The addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh were not driven by football, but their programs didn't make anybody think again. The ACC just wants to be recognized as the best basketball conference again, and they aren't going to really care what you say about their football program. The ACC is in no danger of losing their BCS bid, and they are generally recognized as one of the top conferences in all sports.

Secondly, I can see Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State eventually joining the PAC-XX, Rutgers, and UConn joining the ACC (along with Pitt and 'Cuse), while the SEC stays with Mizzou, West Virginia, Texas A&M, and TCU, and then the Big 10 staying pat, unless they get ND, in which case they would consider adding Kansas, Kansas State, and somebody like Louisville or Cincinnati.

Right now, conferences like the Big 10 and PAC-XX are trying to make it seem like they are fine with the size they're at, and that expansion will only come once they find a school they want, but that is a total load of BULL. Nobody wants to seem to needy, greedy, or just plain stupid. They're playing hard to get, and they want to make schools come to them.

by Jim is rad (not verified) :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 6:40pm

I agree UNC and FSU are not going nowhere. The point I was making was the Big 10 would only expand if Texas, ND, UNC and FSU where on the table for them. These are the only schools that have good enough academics to great academics* that can not only pay for themselves but grow the pie for everyone.

The Pac 12 and the Big 10 are fine at the size they are at. They both make right now in the neighborhood of 22 million per school per year with nearly unlimted upside because they own/co own their own networks. This is before the Big 10 renews there Tier 1 and 2 TV rights which in this market is likely to fetch upwards of 30 million per school per year. The last 2 schools the Big 10 added are Penn St and Nebraska two top 10 brands in the sport. Why would they want to add Rutgers and what ever just to get to 14 or 16? It dilutes their brand to do so. They are in the buisness of adding home run football schools not left overs.

The Big 10 is never going to add Kansas St, Lousiville or Cincinnati. They bring nothing to the table. They all are significantly worse than Nebraska in academics including research. They don't bring either national brands or a large state to montaize the big ten network. Staying put is the greedy and correct move for the Big 10 to make. Adding nobodies lowers the per school earnings.

The Pac on the other hand could have OU and Okie St just a few weeks ago but passed. The SEC could have accepted WVU 2 months ago but even they did not want the academics that they come with instead they went with Mizzou the best brand they could drag out of the Big 12 carcus.

*academics do matter. Its extremely important to the Big 10 specifically research numbers. Its important to the ACC and important ish to the Pac 12.

by zenbitz :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 6:52pm

also... I think playoffs replacing the bowl system will change everything. The conferences right now don't want a playoff that the NCAA controls (see March Madness) but they are positioning themselves for something to change. Maybe they will just tell the NCAA to f off altogether.

In the end - they (the schools, and the conferences that rep them) will do whatever they can for more $$.

It's not a question of each conference just cherry picking the top 4 teams and calling it done. They are jockeying with each other, and the "up for grabs" teams (including the entire Big-12 and Big East) are playing them off each other.

by dbostedo :: Sat, 11/05/2011 - 7:42pm

Why only FSU and UNC out of the ACC? UVA and Virginia Tech could both be candidates as well. Not that they would be, but in terms of research, academics, and athletics, they line up favorably.

Not that any of this speculation really matters - I guess my point is that there are probably quite a few other schools that could be considered.

by zenbitz :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 6:45pm

because powers of 2.

by Kal :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 8:56pm

I tihnk that given how many teams there are you can't just use a conference model; it won't work. Something like the EPL is probably more correct, where you have some set of teams (say 32) that all play each other at various points, and at the end you have a tournament of the best 8 of them for the championship - and you also drop the best 2-3 teams from the league and bring up 2-3 other teams from the secondary league.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 11/02/2011 - 4:15pm

The Big East of California, At Least

by Camp Bras (not verified) :: Thu, 11/03/2011 - 2:16pm

It seems people believe that there will be another split into 'Division I' football. Now, they will cut the top tier to 64 schools; and 'Division I' would have three subdivisions.

Anyone remember how the first split was handled, impression by fans, journalists, etc? If I am not mistaken, it happened in the late 70's.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Fri, 11/04/2011 - 4:12pm

really, if the AQ conferences and ND split off (either from the NCAA entirely or to their own subdivision), I'd think what's left of FBS would merge with FCS (possibly with non-scholarship FCS being relegated back to D-II).

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 11/07/2011 - 12:09am

The whole reason for the Pioneer Football League's existence is that the NCAA requires all sports that a university competes in to be at the same level (with the exception of the Prop 65-1 schools, which have one sport that is at Division I and all the rest of their sports at a lower level). Ivy League and Pioneer League aren't moving down to Division II.