NEW YORK — The Big East’s expansion returns the conference to its roots as a premier basketball league. Football is another story.
Five members of Conference USA moved to the Big East on Tuesday, more than making up for the recent defection of three schools to the Atlantic Coast Conference when it comes to basketball, but not coming close to restoring its luster in football.
“We’re going to be loaded right now in basketball,” Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese said. “I think we’re going to get better in football and we’ll have to.”
Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette and South Florida joined the Big East months after the 25-year-old league lost Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College to the ACC. The new members will begin competing in the 2005-06 academic year.
Cincinnati, Louisville and South Florida replace those three in football to keep the Big East at eight members for that sport. DePaul and Marquette join for all other sports, giving the Big East 16 members, several of which are the country’s premier basketball programs.
In the current financial climate of college sports, it’s football, and the Bowl Championship Series bids that come with it, that matter.
“We’re going to have to step up in football,” Syracuse Athletic Director Jake Crouthamel said. “Maybe we relied a little too much on Miami in recent years. We’re all going to have to step up.”
Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and West Virginia are the Big East’s remaining football schools, with Connecticut becoming a full-time member next season. St. John’s, Villanova, Providence, Georgetown, Notre Dame and Seton Hall are the other members.
“In 1990, when Miami joined the league and Big East football was created, we were measured on potential,” Tranghese said. “These presidents are looking past today, to five, 10, 15 years down the road to what this league can be.”
Conference USA moved quickly to replace the schools it lost, adding Marshall, Rice, SMU, Tulsa and Central Florida.