Saturday, December 22, 2012

Will the Cougars play a single down in the Big East?

These aren't good days for the Big East conference.

First, it was Notre Dame's move from the Big East to the ACC. At the time I didn't think it was a big deal, because it didn't affect football.

But then Rutgers decided to leave the Big East for the Big Ten. The ACC, which was also losing Maryland to the Big Ten, decided to backfill by poaching Louisville from the Big East.

Last weekend, the Big East's seven non-football schools (all private Catholic institutions) decided to leave the conference and form their own basketball-oriented conference, perhaps with other Catholic schools that also don't play football (Nate Silver explains why this is a good decision, and I really can't disagree).

And now there are rumors that Boise State, which had previously agreed to leave the Mountain West Conference for the Big East, is now wavering and is using its home TV rights to play one conference off against the other.

When the University of Houston agreed to join the Big East last year, it seemed like a no-brainer decision. The Big East was an automatically-qualifying BCS conference, which would finally allow the Cougars to have a place at college football's "big boy" table, the Big East's concentration of schools along the heavily-populated East Coast suggested that a lucrative television contract was possible, and the Big East's pedigree as a basketball powerhouse was appealing as well. In the ensuing year, however, those advantages have evaporated. The BCS cartel is being replaced by a playoff after the 2013 season, and the aforementioned defections critically weaken the Big East as far as football strength, basketball strength and TV market strength are concerned.

All of which leads to the obvious question: will the Big East even exist by the time the Cougars are supposed to join in the summer of 2013? And even if it does manage to preservere in 2013, what are its long-term prospects? Should the Cougars consider backing out of a conference that appears to be disintegrating right before their eyes, and if so, where else would they go, now that they've cut ties with Conference USA?

Legendary University of Houston football coach Bill Yeoman supposedly once have said, "it's never easy to be a Cougar, so get used to it." Truer words have never been spoken. Cougar faithful are just going to have to go along for the ride as the gears of conference realignment continue to turn.

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