NEWPORT, R.I. — It is all a matter of perspective, of course. If you are an optimist, then the proceedings at Tuesday’s Big East football media session had a touch of anticipation about the challenges ahead, with horizons reaching far beyond the previous geographical footprint of a conference that has been under siege for the past 10 years.
Listen to interim commissioner Joe Bailey talk about a national football league that goes from Florida to California, from New England to Texas, and to Idaho. “Things change, and the roadmap of where the conference is going is exciting,’’ said Bailey, who was brought in to calm things following the departure of John Marinatto in the spring.
Bailey is a short timer — he expects to leave the Big East by September when a new commissioner should be in place. Tuesday, he talked about five qualified candidates who are on the search committee’s wish list.
The Big East will be different, if not better, with six schools — Boise State, Southern Methodist, Memphis, Houston, Central Florida, and San Diego State — scheduled to join next summer.
That group will join Temple — back for a second chance — UConn, Rutgers, South Florida, Cincinnati, and Louisville as a 12-team, two-division league that will play a championship game next season. In 2015, Navy is scheduled to join, which means that a 14th team will be added — BYU, Air Force? — forming what the Big East hopes will be a league that can compete at the highest level.
“We are approaching the fall with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm,’’ said Bailey. “Change is the new rule.’’
Associate commissioner Nick Carparelli, who is one of the candidates for the commissioner’s post and would be an excellent fit, also talked about the changes that have taken place and are coming.
Another potential candidate for the top job is Pac-12 deputy commissioner Kevin Weiberg. Former NCAA executive Greg Shaheen is another possibility, as well as major league baseball executive vice president/business Tim Brosnan. If there is a favorite, no one has been revealed yet.
“More has changed in a 12-month period, both nationally and in the Big East, than in any other time span in recent memory,’’ said Carparelli. “In the Big East alone, we have had 12 schools announce that they were either leaving or joining the conference.’’
Two schools — Syracuse and Pittsburgh — will be headed to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.
While most coaches talked about their team and the Big East in their opening remarks Tuesday, neither new Pittsburgh head man Paul Chryst nor Syracuse coach Doug Marrone mentioned the conference in their remarks.
There is a pessimistic view. Critics point to a league that doesn’t have a commissioner, doesn’t have a television contract, and doesn’t have a guaranteed spot in a BCS bowl game for its champion beyond the current contract, which ends after the 2013 season.
In short, to some, the Big East seems somewhat rudderless, and a downgrade from the league that began in 1991 with great ideas and potential for Eastern football.
Carparelli disputes that. “I will say with absolute certainty that the Big East will continue to be the most competitive conference in the country,’’ he said.
But at what level of competition? Louisville has been picked as a solid favorite over South Florida as the conference champion, with UConn, Syracuse, and Temple the sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-place choices.
Carparelli is correct in stating that no matter what happens in the future, the next two seasons a Big East team is guaranteed one of the BCS automatic berths in the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, or Orange Bowls.
But the critics are correct when they say that the conference remains at the bottom of the automatic bid pecking order for the BCS.
Things will continue to change for the next several months as conferences across the country test their new setups.
For the Big East, some stability will be as welcome as change.Mark Blaudschun can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org