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For Syracuse and Pitt's Sake, the Big East Needs to Expand

Yeah, this expansion stuff is THAT ridiculous.

As we know, ringleader of the Big East circus John Marinatto recently announced that he intends to hold Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the 27-month period that's written in the Big East's bylaws before they can leave.  That, in and of itself, is fair enough.  The speed with which Miami and Virginia Tech wasn't very good for the conference, and Pittsburgh's president Mark Nordenberg is one of the main architects of the 27 months.  However, the only good business reason that Marinatto would hold us for the full amount of time is that he doesn't want to lose his league's BCS bid.  A conference must have 8 members to hold onto an automatic bid.  

It does no good for anyone for Syracuse and Pitt to be stuck in the Big East for three more seasons.  We can ask Boston College how they were received when they went on the road, it's only going to be worse for our teams, especially when we visit the basketball-only schools.  We need the Big East to go take a football school, any football school really.  Whether it's Navy, ECU, Air Force, one of those middle schools that Rutgers plays four times a year (I'm sure they could give a SWEET referral), it's really not a huge deal to us at this point...we just need an eighth team to get in here to take our spot.  The Big East is lucky in that their performance was recently reevaluated, and their BCS standing otherwise is safe until 2014, so they just need to get 8 teams and make a go of it.

Now if that happens, and it seems likely that it will, there is really no reason for Marinatto to keep us around.  We just clutter stuff up, and if we or Pitt were to go on and start winning leagues, which could definitely happen in any sport over the next three years, it would make a bit of a mockery of the Big East.  If Marinatto does lock us up after the fact, I can only reason to guess that it is all sour grapes on his, and the Big East's part.  

If we've learned anything over the past few years, it's that this expansion isn't going to happen in one big burst.  Many of us thought that we'd be in the ACC or Big 10 already, but it ended up only being a few schools (Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Boise State, TCU) who moved spots.  This time, we thought that the Syracuse/Pitt move would begin a seismic shift, but because West Virginia couldn't get out of the Big East, and Oklahoma seems committed to holding up the Big 12, we've hit a bit of an impasse.  

The questions now are:  is UConn going to squeeze into the ACC, and does the Big 12 try to poach Big East schools?  I think UConn would jump in a heartbeat, but it sounds like Boston College has been trying to block them.  That lawsuit doesn't seem like a great idea in retrospect, does it Connecticut?  I think the bigger issue is that adding UConn is basically the last shot the ACC has at getting Notre Dame.

Notre Dame would love to stay independent if at all possible.  However, if we eventually make it to the proverbial four conferences of sixteen teams, which gets talked about all the time (and that I personally believe will happen), it would be virtually impossible for the Irish to fill a full schedule, and they wouldn't be able to compete for a national championship.  The 4x16 format, with each conference having two eight-team divisions and a conference championship, lends itself to a de facto eight-team playoff.  The theory is that the super-conferences would look to reform, if not completely leave the BCS and establish this system.  If Notre Dame isn't in one of the big four, they're not ever going to have a shot at the national championship, which is something that they covet more than their own independence.  

By adding UConn, the ACC would drive another stake into the Big East, but the question is, would it be enough to pull in Notre Dame in all sports?  If so, it's a brilliant move.  If not, it forces the ACC to take a 16th team, probably Rutgers...and Notre Dame probably settles on the Big 10 down the road.  John Swofford has been pretty shrewd during this whole expansion era, but I don't know if he's ready to make a move like this.  If everyone's settled down, as it appears they have aside from the Big East and Big 12 looking to add mid-majors, I think the ACC may hold put for the time being.  

As for the Big 12, I think if they offer West Virginia/Louisville/TCU/whoever else, those teams should take it..  I don't see the Big 12 lasting forever, but I think with Oklahoma taking the reins and driving out Beebe, there is enough stability there to at least outlast the Big East.  If that happens, the basketball-onlies may just break off and start the Catholic conference that they all seem to want.