TCU will be joining the Big East Conference in 2012. Villanova has an open invitation to join for football and will make their decision by the end of the academic year. As we know, the Wildcats won't be able to play Big East football until at least 2014 if not 2015, which makes them relatively useless whether they say yes or not. As far as I'm concerned, ova doesn't even count towards the stated goal of a ten-team conference. 2015 might as well be 3015.
The Big East needs to grow and it needs to grow now. And so, one would imagine that growth by at least one more football team would be in the best interest of the BCS' smallest and weakest conference.
I said back in November that if Villanova "doesn't count," then the logical two choices for expansion were TCU and UCF. Here in January, it's even more logical. It's the logicalist.
Back then I said the Knights give you a rising football program, the Orlando market and not much else. Amazing what changes in a few months.
The football team is coming off the best season in their 31-year history, winning Conference USA and culminating in a Liberty Bowl victory over SEC's Georgia. It was their third winning season in four years and second double-digit win total in as many. Their head coach is a name (George O'Leary) who built the program from the ground up (0-11 in 2004). And they play in a relatively-new stadium with a 45K capacity.
That basketball program I didn't think much of? Well I kinda think a little bit more of them these days. They're currently No. 19 in the nation with wins over Florida, Miami and UMass, led by Marcus Jordan, who's Dad who may have heard of. Their head coach, Donnie Jones, is known for being a quality recruiter. UCF Arena seats roughly 10K, which isn't huge but isn't terribly smaller than many Big East teams (The RAC holds 8K).
Granted, we shouldn't base these decisions on one season, but...maybe we should. I mean, TCU has history and tradition but let's face it, they're joining the conference because of 5-6 really good football seasons. For all we know, TCU will be atrocious in football by 2015.
What UCF provides, that no one else seems to be able to do, is balance. Even TCU can't provide the kind of football/basketball equilibrium that UCF is offering right here and now.
Memphis? Good basketball program (though they're probably not going to be as good as they were for a while) but a football program that about as bad as they come (2-10, 1-11 in last two years)
East Carolina? Good football program but as for basketball, I'm not even sure they have a team.
Drop the hammer right now and UCF could be a Big East team by 2012. That's soon enough to ensure that both football and basketball keep their momentum and even begin to grow. All due apologies to USF, who will be none too pleased about it, but this is about the greater good. There's too many good reasons to choose UCF, at least when you compare them to the other options available (and no, Notre Dame is not one of them).
Yes, that means Big East basketball would now be 18-teams and that's something the conference would either have to deal with or make the hard decision to eliminate schools not holding their weight. That's a bridge to cross when we get there. If we get there.