Britton Banowsky may be afraid
to answer his telephone, check his email or watch ESPN's
SportsCenter. The news lately has not been good for Conference
USA and its mild-mannered commissioner.
Houston, Southern Methodist and
Central Florida comprise the latest wave of defections,
effective 2013, and surely have sent Banowsky scurrying for his
list of contingency members.
C-USA needs to have 12 schools
in order to have a league championship football game, just one
of the repercussions of the recent raid by the Big East.
Just days ago, a merger between
C-USA and the Mountain West looked like a promising development
in the aftermath of East Carolina's apparent rejection by the
The reality of the quicksand
that is the college athletics landscape at the moment is that
ECU could still get a Big East invitation. The decision of Air
Force to remain in the Mountain West rather than fall in with
the Big East's western sweep could send some dominoes falling in
the Pirates' direction. Navy may be more reluctant to join
without its fellow service academy accompanying it and that may
mean a space at the table for another Eastern team.
ECU athletics director Terry
Holland has been monitoring the pulse of the situation. He said
the Big East wanted to address its Western expansion but
indicated the league might evaluate additional expansion
afterwards. The implication was that ECU's opportunity to join
the Big East could possibly ensue.
There are still enough teams in
a combined C-USA and Mountain West to make a mutual alignment
functional but the Pirates would have to consider a Big East bid
if one is forthcoming.
The situation most beneficial to
the Pirates may depend on potential changes to the structure of
the Bowl Championship Series. ECU wants to be in the best
possible position financially and maintain its appealing
nonconference regional football scheduling relationships.
BCS Executive Director Bill
Hancock said there may be as many as 30 different models for a
restructured BCS that will be examined next year.
The appeal of the Big East for
ECU was the league's automatic qualifying berth in the BCS and
its corresponding revenue. If the BCS system changes, it could
affect the Pirates in terms of what conference affiliation would
be most beneficial.
If a Big East invitation comes
before the BCS determines its course for the future, ECU
officials will have to project their most favorable position and
The Big East has out-USAed
Conference USA. The Big East's footprint will span the country
in 2013. A potential trip from Connecticut to San Diego State is
roughly 6,000 miles round trip. It's a good thing that no one in
college athletics bothers to consult academicians about these
matters. Missed class time isn't a factor when the almighty
dollar is driving the bus.
Speaking of dollars, Southern
Miss' win over Houston in the C-USA championship game cost the
league between $10 and $13 million, according to various
estimates as the Cougars were knocked out of a big payday from a
BCS bowl. Golden Eagles coach Larry Fedora apparently will reap
some personal benefits with a new, lucrative contract as Butch
Davis's successor at North Carolina.
June Jones was briefly on the
coaching carousel himself but his agent's understanding with
Arizona State went awry and Jones is fortunate to be at SMU for
the time being.
The situation was typical of the
general uncertainty that pervades various dimensions of college
A few years ago, Doug Groome
organized a virtual bowl for ECU in a down year and actually
raised some significant money for the Pirate Club in the
In response to some of the
dissatisfaction generated by a rematch between Alabama and LSU
in the BCS title game, I would like to join those who favor a
16-team playoff among current Football Bowl Subdivision members.
The format would be similar to
the NCAA Tournament in basketball — the 11 conference champions
and five at-large teams.
First-round games in the
virtual playoff this season in my bracket:
- Arkansas State (Sun Belt)
at top-seeded LSU
- Northern Illinois (MAC) at
- Louisiana Tech (WAC) at
third-seeded Oklahoma State
- West Virginia at
- Southern Miss at Oregon
- Clemson at Arkansas
- Texas Christian (Mountain
West) at Boise State
- Wisconsin at Kansas State.
If the higher seeds survived,
the second round would have Kansas State vs. LSU, Boise State
vs. Alabama, Arkansas vs. Oklahoma State and Oregon vs.
Stanford. The second round would be the point at which the
playoffs would move into the existing bowl structure with games
at neutral sites.
The Oregon-Stanford winner
would play the Kansas State-LSU winner on one side of the
bracket in the semifinals and the Arkansas-Oklahoma State winner
would meet the Boise State-Alabama winner in the other bracket.
As a fan, I would much rather
see these teams progress toward a true national champion,
determined on the field over the next few weeks, instead of
hearing the talking heads on ESPN hyping the second coming of
the game of the century, which won't take place until next
The second tier bowls would
remain active and provide postseason opportunities for teams
which didn't qualify for the playoffs. The playoff semifinals
would be hosted by the Orange and Sugar Bowls in my 2011 model.
The Rose Bowl would host the championship.
State Line Power Rankings™
South Carolina's win over
Clemson provided some clarity as to the top spot among the FBS
teams in the Carolinas. The problem with the next three spots is
that Wake Forest beat N.C. State, North Carolina beat Wake
Forest and State beat Carolina. The Deacons actually had a
better ACC record (5-3) than the Wolfpack (4-4) or Tar Heels
(3-5) but Wake played poorly in a regular-season-ending loss to
1. South Carolina ... The
Gamecocks beat Clemson for the third straight time and will meet
Nebraska in the postseason.
2. Clemson ... The Tigers
bounced back from their loss in Columbia to take the ACC
championship and will go bowling against West Virginia.
3. (tie) North Carolina ... Tar
Heels dispatched Duke on Senior Day and face Missouri in
Shreveport, LA, on Dec. 26.
3. (tie) N.C. State ...
Miraculous winners against Maryland, the Wolfpack will travel to
Charlotte for a Dec. 27 date with Louisville.
3. (tie) Wake Forest ... The
Deacons saved their worst for last in the regular season but
Mississippi State offers an opportunity for redemption.
6. East Carolina ... Pirates
were a play or two away for much of a 5-7 season;
recruiting is the focus
7. Duke ... The Blue Devils
were better but only had a 3-9 record (1-7 ACC) to show for it.