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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Goodbye Big East Football

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Goodbye Big East Football
By Wild on Sports Analyst Bryan Ridall

This is personally a sad day for me because I grew up with Syracuse football, watching the recent good times with Donovan McNabb at quarterback, and the very bad times during the Greg Robinson era. However, the Big East has been falling apart since 2004, when a chain reaction started with Miami and Virginia Tech leaving for the ACC, and Boston College a year later. With West Virginia leaving last year, Syracuse and Pitt leaving this year, and Rutgers and Louisville leaving next year, the remaining schools are a shadow of the former Big East, with Connecticut being the only original Big East School left. The football schools lost a battle with the basketball schools within the Big East that don’t have Division I football programs, and were forced to change the conference to the American Athletic Conference. Though recently the competition in the Big East was the running joke in college football, the Big East should be remembered as a strong and competitive conference in the NCAA.

When the Big East formed in 1979, it consisted of Boston College, Connecticut, Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Syracuse. It added Seton Hall the next year, and then added Pitt in 1982. The inaugural Big East football season took place in 1991, after the conference members decided they wanted to become a major football conference, adding Rutgers, Miami, Temple, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia. Miami was one of the top teams in college football at the time, after being named national champion in two of the previous four years. Miami went undefeated that year and was named co-national champion with Washington, who also went undefeated that year. Rivalries between West Virginia/Virginia Tech, Miami/Boston College, Miami/Virginia Tech, and Virginia Tech/Syracuse drove the Big East during the 1990’s, with Miami, VT, WVU, and ‘Cuse being the only teams to win Big East titles between 1991-2003. With the implementation of the BCS Bowl System, the Big East was given an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game. Three of the first five BCS Bowls that the Big East champion played in were National Championships, with Virginia Tech losing in 2000, and Miami winning in 2002, and then losing the next year to Ohio State. However, the quality of play diminished once Miami, Boston College, and Virginia Tech left the Big East for the ACC.

In 2005, after losing the conference’s three premier teams, the Big East was looking to add new members in order to fill the conference and keep the automatic bid. The Big East added Cincinnati, Louisville, and South Florida to their football conference, and each team has had an impact on Big East Football. Cincinnati won back-to-back Big East Championships under head coach Brian Kelly, and went 12-1 in 2009, with its only loss coming to Florida in the Sugar Bowl. South Florida has struggled recently, but was ranked as high as #2 in 2007, and have produced some quality NFL players, most notably Jason Pierre-Paul. Louisville has also won two Big East titles, including last year’s, and upset the heavy favorite Florida in the Sugar Bowl. While the top two or three teams in the conference were competitive, the conference as a whole was not, and led many people to question why the Big East received an automatic bid. However, the Big East has won its last two BCS Bowl games and Louisville is a team that is receiving national title hype this year with Heisman hopeful Teddy Bridgewater as their quarterback. Unfortunately for the fans, this year will be the last that we haven’t the Big East represented in football.

Big East football has been around for over twenty years, and provided two national championships along with eight BCS Bowl wins to its fans. Some of the players and teams that played in the Big East were the greatest of their era, and the Big East will be remembered proudly. Everyone should take the chance to watch one Big East football game this year, before its too late.

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