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Notes, Quotes and Slants

Pirate Notebook No. 133
Wednesday, August 6, 2003

By Denny O'Brien
Staff Writer and Columnist

Time for Banowsky to step up


• Big responsibility rests with Pirates fans
BCS insiders enlisted on ECU's behalf
• Time for C-USA to seize the initiative
West Virginia faces scheduling crisis
Big East move or not, Card want in on BCS
Beano & Muse: Same idea, different words
• Slive pooh-poohs ACC raid speculation
• Pedigreed Pirates weighs in on ECU future
• 'Ancient' blunder still stings Big East
• Tranghese disputes Swofford claim
• Big East stares at Big Decisions
• C-USA Kickoff forum sidetracked by events
• Tranghese repents, Swofford doesn't

• ACC treads cautiously towards title game
• New coalition confronts status quo
Cartel's bigwigs say no, but...
BCS powerbrokers eclipse other meetings
• Summer travels feature realignment chatter
ACC move has dual implications for C-USA
• League tremors low priority for Rimpf
• Tulane CEO bucks BCS, demands reform
• Realignment injects urgency into season
Army declares independence
Big East speeds UConn timetable

The longer Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky remains idle on conference realignment, the more likely the league eventually will implode.

With the Mountain West and Western Athletic Conferences now considering their own annexations, the Big East no longer is the only predator that may hunt on C-USA's wide open range.

Unless Banowsky has armored himself with camouflage and is planning a sneak expansion attack of his own, don't expect C-USA to enjoy a big feast when realignment season is over. At least that's the message Banowksy conveyed two weeks ago in Memphis.

"To a certain extent, we've got to understand how the Big East is going to go forward for us to be in a position to react," Banowsky said. "I don't think we can be in a position to pre-empt anything relative to the Big East, and I'm not sure it would be appropriate, anyway, given where our members are.

"We'll just have to wait and see. I think we're prepared to do what we need to do to make the league stronger and that would include adding teams to the conference."

But what about keeping the league in tact? At what point does that become an option?

Considering that C-USA's most high-profile football schools — East Carolina, Louisville, Southern Miss, and Texas Christian — have been mentioned as potential targets for other leagues, it would seem that salvaging the current setup would be the primary agenda.

After all, it easily can be argued that C-USA's Big 4 in football, plus the past accomplishments of Tulane and the potential future of South Florida, more than rival Big East leftovers Boston College, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and West Virginia.

"I agree with that," Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower said. "I don't know what's going to happen to the Big East, whether they'll add schools and take from Conference USA, but I feel good about this league in comparison to that. I don't see how the Big East can survive and be a part of the BCS now."

The fact is, it won't. Not if it adds only Louisville and Cincinnati, a move that primarily would benefit the Big East's basketball profile.

No offense to the Cardinals or Bearcats, but neither offers the gridiron clout needed to ensure the Big East a spot at the BCS table. Though both are traditional hardwood powers with national titles under their belts, much of the U of L's football success has occurred over the past five seasons, while Cincinnati struggles to outdraw many of the surrounding high schools.

About the only way the Big East can remain a major player in college football is by increasing its membership to 12, stockpiling schools with football cultures. With only six football-playing schools for a foundation, such an effort could be expensive and geographically unwieldy.

If that doesn't spark a few light bulbs in Banowsky's head, nothing will.

Here's something to ponder:

Army's exodus following the 2004 season leaves C-USA with an even ten, an ideal number from which to build. So instead of reacting to the Big East's next move, perhaps Banowsky could steal a page from the John Swofford book of organizational leadership — minus the chapter on chicanery — by tapping into the shrinking league.

If the Big East's remaining six insist on sticking together, then C-USA seriously should explore the feasibility of adding the whole lot. As a trade-off, C-USA's non-football schools could be shipped East, which would quench Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese's thirst to oversee a basketball empire.

True, the trials and tribulations of the WAC's previous 16-team configuration have been well documented, but that was during the pre-BCS era and in a league constructed primarily of mid-majors.

A new C-USA inflated with the Big East's holdovers easily could work given the eight-team, divisional alignments that would provide competitive and — to a certain extent — geographical balance. What's more, with six or more schools that are annual Top 25 contenders, it would be difficult to deny that group an automatic BCS bid.

It may be the only proposal that benefits all parties, though it is an idea that likely won't receive it's due consideration.

That's because Banowsky is the only person in a position to make it happen. And for the time being, C-USA's Commander-in-Chief appears perfectly content to sit on idle hands.

BCS or Playoff?

Judging by the responses at the recent C-USA media kick-off, several coaches obviously have been placed under a gag order when the BCS topic is broached.

Not Cincinnati boss Rick Minter.

"Am I for a playoff," Minter asked? "As long as I'm the head coach at Cincinnati, I'm for a playoff.

"If I'm the head coach at Ohio State, I'm not for a playoff. I'm going to win the Big Ten, then go to the Rose Bowl or Fiesta Bowl and win the whole thing, just like they did. If they had been in a league that forced them to play a playoff game, their chances would have been diminished. Not finished, but diminished."

Because of that, Minter believes the ACC will have no problem rounding up support for its plea to stage a conference championship game with fewer than 12 schools.

"Do you think the Big XII and the SEC is going to vote against that rule that the ACC wants to create where ten teams can play a playoff game," Minter asked? "Most people who want to ask them that question say, yeah, they'll vote against it. No they won't. The teams in the Big XII and SEC now want the ACC to have a playoff game.

"Right now, who's got the advantage in college football? Miami's got the advantage being in the Big East and winning in the regular season and going to the BCS. And, Florida State has traditionally proven to be the other really good job because it won what has typically been a weak league and gone straight to the national title game."

No such luck for C-USA.

As Tulane proved in 1998, even an unblemished record and Top 10 ranking isn't enough to earn a BCS invitation. Due to the emphasis the BCS computers place on opinion polls and strength of schedule, leagues without an automatic bid to college football's big dance essentially are eliminated before the season begins.

"First of all, just the strength of league schedule — not who you play outside of the league — prohibits that because our computerized rankings aren't going to be as high," Minter said. "We're the seventh or eighth rated conference in the land.

"So, how are we going to win our league and then have a computer rating of No. 1 in the country? It's not going to ever happen. Can we win the national title at Cincinnati? The answer would be no."

Memo to Minter: It won't happen in the Big East, either.

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02/23/2007 01:51:31 AM


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