OT: Should football return to the Big East?

The last game of Big East football was played in 2006. Photo courtesy of today.uconn.edu.

SAM CARUS | STAFF REPORTER | scarus@butler.edu 

Overtime, or “OT,” is an opinion column series where the Collegian takes national sports headlines or polarizing topics and gives them a Butler-centric angle

The Big East is full of great rivalries that go back decades. Most of the bad blood was forged on the basketball court, but could it transfer to the gridiron? 

The Big East did try to fit in with bigger conferences and have football. The first season of Big East football in 1991 saw Miami, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Rutgers, Boston College and Temple all compete. 

The formation of the football conference was not easy. The original Big East members had only three Division I-A football teams; Syracuse, Boston College and Pittsburgh. The Big East had to scramble to add credibility to their conference, going up the East Coast the Big East added West Virginia, Rutgers, Virginia Tech and Temple. While the Big East was adding members, Miami decided they no longer wanted to be independent in college football so they joined the new Big East conference. 

The 1991 Miami Hurricanes brought immediate success to the formation of football in the Big East by winning the national championship. Football in the Big East remained successful throughout the 1990s, with the conference being represented in multiple bowl games. 

The 2000s started out strong for the Big East, with the conference being represented in the final AP top 25 poll each year until 2004. The Big East’s worst nightmare happened in 2004 when Miami decided to leave. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) announced in 2003 their plans to expand from nine teams to 12. The ACC successfully poached Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College. The Big East was able to gain the University of Connecticut, but the conference had lost a ton of its shine. 

Conference realignment in 2005 saw sweeping changes to the Big East as Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati were all added to try and make up for the loss of Virginia Tech, Boston College and Temple. 

2012 would be the Big East’s last year in the college football world, with the ACC delivering a dagger by poaching Syracuse and Pittsburgh. The Big 12 took West Virginia and Texas Christian University, even after the horned frogs had accepted an offer to join the Big East. 

The Big East fought to stay afloat by extending invitations to Boise State, Houston, Southern Methodist, Central Florida and San Diego State. Once Boise State and San Diego State decided not to join, the plans for the conference fell apart. In a last-ditch effort, the Big East tried to add Navy and Memphis, but it was already too little too late. The “Catholic seven”, the Big East members who did not have football programs, left as well and took the Big East name, ultimately ending football in the Big East. 

The history of the Big East is complicated, but should the conference look to bring back football after 12 years away from it? 

As the Big East conference currently stands, only one of the members has a team competing at the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) level: UConn. Three teams — Butler, Georgetown and Villanova — compete at the Football Championship Subdivision level of college football. 

Junior sports media major Matt Sherwin thinks it is unlikely that Big East football could happen with the conference’s current members.

“Most of the teams in the Big East either do not have a football program or have an underwhelming football program,” Sherwin said. “I don’t think I would be interested; it is better suited for basketball.” 

For football in the Big East to even return, they would have to poach schools from different conferences. Schools that were once in the Big East such as Syracuse, Boston College and Louisville would be necessities to get the idea off the ground. 

Owen O’Keefe, a sophomore sports media and strategic communication double major, can imagine how difficult it would be to bring back teams to the Big East. 

“You are going to have to get schools from the Big 10 and the ACC,” O’Keefe said. “Which would be hard to do because of the money that comes with playing football in those conferences.” 

Most athletic departments in the Big East prioritize basketball, which is where the money comes from. Butler is in a lower-level football conference, as are Villanova and Georgetown. The rest of the Big East does not have football programs, making the possibility of football ever returning to the conference unlikely. 

The main reason that schools like Miami, Syracuse, Louisville and Boston College all left the Big East is because of the large sums of money other conferences offered them. The Big East is a basketball conference with a rich history; many people do not even remember football in the conference. 

Sophomore economics major Aidan Finneran, who is a huge fan of Big East basketball, does not have many memories from Big East football. 

“I remember nothing; it was always behind the major conferences,” Finneran said. “I would not watch. It should just never have football.” 

Ultimately, the Big East should not bring back football. It is unrealistic to think that the Big East would be able to poach schools from bigger conferences or somehow have all the current members have a football program and elevate them to FBS. The Big East is and will remain a basketball brand conference. 


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