Harris BCS Poll
For the sixth year in a row, columnist Denny O'Brien is a member
of the voting panel
for the Harris Interactive College Football Poll
commissioned by the Bowl Championship Series. O'Brien was nominated to the panel by Conference USA.
His weekly ballot will
be published in this space each Monday throughout the season.
Harris Poll is a component of the BCS Standings. The
initial 2011 BCS Standings were released on Sunday, Oct. 16. O'Brien's
ballot below was filed in conjunction with this week's
Harris BCS Poll.
Denny O'Brien's Harris Poll Ballot
teams and ECU opponents highlighted in yellow.)
6. Oklahoma State
7. Boise State
12. Michigan State
13. West Virginia
15. Kansas State
19. Texas A&M
20. Arizona State
21. Georgia Tech
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About the only constants remaining in
college athletics are the changing tides of conference affiliation.
It’s become so much a part of
intercollegiate athletics that “musical chairs” isn’t just some catchy
cliché, it’s a part of everyday rhetoric in NCAA sports circles.
phenomenon is such an unsettling force that
the mere rumor of one league expanding
forces another to pull the trigger as a preemptive measure of survival.
Repositioning of schools generally
occurs with little regard to the rivalries that built college football.
That’s largely been the case with the moves by the Atlantic Coast
Conference, Big Ten, Pac-12, and Southeastern Conference over the past
The motivation to increase membership
has been fueled mostly by the desire to increase revenue by tapping into
new television markets.
The Big East, as is typically the case,
has been left to scramble for its collective existence.
The most recent and unlikely threat to
the Big East’s football relevance hasn’t come from a BCS Automatic
Qualifier conference. This time it is Conference USA and the Mountain
West Conference that have made
an intriguing power play.
that should throw caution to the schools said to be immediate targets of
the six pack that currently comprises Big East football.
As a response to rumblings that the Big
East was set to pillage some of their members, C-USA and the MWC
responded with an aggressive maneuver of their own. The long-rumored
football alliance between the two finally came to fruition on a
teleconference late Friday afternoon.
The result redefines the super
conference concept with 22 current football members spanning five time
zones. The goal of league commissioners Britton Banowsky (C-USA) and
Craig Thompson (MWC) is to stabilize their two leagues and make an
assertive push for AQ inclusion.
"The role of a conference is to provide
its members with the best possible environment in which to conduct their
intercollegiate athletics programs," Thompson said. "Rather than await
changes in membership due to realignment, it became clear the best way
to serve our institutions was to pursue an original concept.
“The Mountain West and C-USA share a
number of similarities, and the creative merger of our football assets
firmly positions our respective members for the future."
If the current Big East targets from the
two leagues remain in place, this new coalition will have a strong AQ
argument. As it stands today, it would have a better case than the
current Big East leftovers, of which only West Virginia provides a
prominent football presence.
That’s easily trumped by Boise State,
and at least for this year, by Houston. Throw in Southern Methodist and
you won’t find an equivalent trio within the Big East, which could make
for an interesting argument when Banwosky and Thompson make their push
for AQ status next month.
You have to admit, the BCS is likely to
get a school with an attractive record pulling from a league with a
22-team inventory, especially if one of those schools is Boise State.
While that ultimately was the goal
driving the two conferences to join forces, there are additional
opportunities this coalition generates. Television is certainly one.
Creativity with scheduling and an attractive championship game are
"The potential of this association is
very exciting," Banowsky said. "By taking an innovative approach, we
feel we can offer tremendous opportunities for exposure and stability
without breaking up the regional rivalries that truly make up the
college football tradition."
There is no question that the new merger
will also generate its share of challenges and potentially introduce
conflicting agendas. With 22 schools that stretch beyond the continental
United States, it will be difficult to keep each member operating from
the same mission statement.
As long as college athletics continue
producing revenue at record rates, many of the members within this
league will also keep their eyes on possibilities elsewhere. Thanks to
the deep pockets of television executives, this is the environment in
which we are stuck.
But you have to applaud Banowsky and
Thompson for thinking outside the box on this one. You also have to
admire that they didn’t allow their collective non-AQ status to prevent
them from being the aggressor.
With a simple handshake, C-USA and the
MWC have increased their relevance in college football.