November 2, 2010

Oh joy. Well, at least the Big East waited to stir things up until there was a bye week for Pitt.

The BIG EAST Conference submitted the results of its extensive self-analysis and evaluation of the college athletics environment today at its annual Conference Board of Directors meeting.  Based on those results, the BIG EAST presidents agreed that the interests of each of the conference’s 16 member institutions would be served by increasing the number of Bowl Subdivision football-playing members to 10.  They unanimously approved the process to evaluate the terms and conditions for potential expansion candidates.

That means — nothing. It means the only they approved the concept that going to 10 teams in football is a good idea (duh). The other thing they approved is the manner in which they will decide to figure out the best way to figure out the best possible options.

They didn’t approve of a short list. They didn’t approve of the actual evaluation process. They only approved the evaluation process for the way they will evaluate candidates.

Really? We already know this one. Villanova has the invite and has to decide. Then it is TCU, Houston, UCF, Temple and Memphis.

That’s the list. It doesn’t take much to figure out. Navy and Army won’t bite.

The ACC and Big 10/12 aren’t coming calling for Pitt or anyone else for some time, so don’t start screaming about how Pitt needs to get out of the Big East tomorrow. That’s a broken record with no relevance to this. Pitt has no leverage to make that happen. They would be a nice addition to a conference, but they are not a sought after crown jewel. Only those programs can dictate when and where they want to be.

I’m not going to get too wound up about this. If there is news, I’ll pass it along and offer my thoughts. Right now, this is not news. This is just still a reminder to ‘Nova to make up their minds and a message to the obvious candidates to start preparing their presentations (and maybe line up donors for the entrance fee).


“what youre saying is some weird blend of philosophy and dystopianism…”

So? Philosophy is built upon logic, and logic comes in handy when making decisions. And between Jim Calhoun, Bruce Pearl and Cam Newton’s “agent” (just some recent examples), why would I think the world of college athletics is a UTOPIAN environment — never mind a positive, enriching one? Excuse me for seeing it as the sewer that it is, and for not being very encouraged about the direction in which it is moving.

“please read all of my points above, they are instantly the worst program in the BCS”

That doesn’t mean they always will be; they could get better. As for television, I live near Villanova. Their games are on TV every week in the area. The same cannot be said for Pitt. The field is an issue, but there are ways around that: If they really wanted to commit, they could knock down their stadium and build a 20-30,000 seater on-campus. That’s about what we draw at Heinz Field. If they don’t want to do that, what’s the difference between a half-empty Linc for Villanova football and a half-empty Heinz Field for Pitt football?

“who cares about academics? They arent a research university either, no doctoral programs… its a small catholic masters school… why dont we invite Swarthmore too?”

Swarthmore doesn’t even have a football team anymore. That would be a much bigger project, but I am intrigued. Anyway, I care about academics, and it seems like you do, too, if you want a major research univeristy. Cincy, UConn, Louisville, South Florida and WVU are dragging the conference down by not being members of the AAU, i.e. “major research universities”. Know what other schools aren’t major research universities? TCU, UCF and Houston. So, if you want major research universities, you’re not getting them in your package. And besides, BC isn’t in the AAU, but, hard feelings aside, you’d have them back, wouldn’t you? Pitt is a fine school, and I’d prefer them to be rubbing shoulders with schools at their station, not arrivistes like South Florida and UCF. You’re not getting your academics with those schools, nor are you getting geographic locations that make any (Texas schools) or much (UCF) sense.

“A facilities arms race? What does that even mean? We already have the best facilities in the BLeast… and some of the best in America. And were supposed to bring in Nova so we dont get threatened into making capital investments in our athletic programs?”

What do you mean, “What does that even mean?” People talk about facilities arms races all of the time. Read about a conference besides the Big East — facilities are kind of important in recruiting. Maybe we do have the best facilitiies in the Big East, but that’s really just based on what we’ve been told. Have you ever worked out at UPMC Southside? I haven’t. And I think UConn or Rutgers could get better facilities. They have the land and the money. But to say that we have some of the best facilities in America is completely out of order. Do you know what kind of palaces to football they build at places like Texas and Tennessee? We are not even on the national map for football facilities. So, if you bring in a school like Villanova that doesn’t have the land or the money to build much (especially if they did build that stadium), you’re not going to get out-classed in facilities when recruiting. At least as far as facilities are concerned, the playing field can be kept relatively even.


Is it really that disgusting to you? Is it really that frustrating — the idea of playing opponents whose fans are close enough to travel to some of the other schools in the conference? To build a conference that, in, say, twenty years time, has established tradition? Would you rather just jump in the Big Ten and pretend Michigan State then Nebraska is a rival? Hold a pointless conference championship game no one will attend? Is it so bad to continue our basketball rivalry with ‘Nova in football? How does being in a conference with TCU, UCF and Houston do anything for us? It hardly makes sense to be in a conference with Cincy and Louisville, but I’m at least used to it now. (Not South Florida, though. You can kick them to the curb as far as I’m concerned.) If markets and manufactured enthusiasm are your thing, stick to pro sports. I await the day we play Carnegie Mellon and Duquesne in conference play.


I have a question. When we’re all watching on our phones, how is one city’s demographics going to matter? People in Houston or Tampa will be able to watch whatever they want; in some cases they already can. Don’t you need to nurture your own fans’ interest? Isn’t that your only guaranteed audience?

Comment by JTC 11.05.10 @ 7:01 pm

JTC: Who really controls the broadcast out of the stadium, individuals or monoliths like ESPN? Who will have the financial wherewithal to continue to provide those feeds to your phone, PC, iPad, radio, TV, etc.? Don’t you think that ESPN will continue to protect its investment and monetize it to the fullest? When Brighthouse in Tampa shows a BE game that they’ve purchased from ESPN it is blacked-out on ESPN will always go where the ad money is the largest, and that still resides with the market not the individual.

Don’t you think that advertisers are still going to target the markets where they have the highest sales volumes? Budwiser doesn’t know how much beer you drink, but they do know they sell a lot of beer in Pittsburgh. So, they’ll still throw bigger money at Pittsburgh than at individual Pitt fans. And, ESPN will continue to follow that money, at least for the foreseeable future.

Comment by TampaT 11.08.10 @ 12:44 pm

TampaT: No, I don’t think any of those things. That’s why I asked.

But, yeah, it is the monoliths who control the feed. And while the “market” is more powerful than the “individual” if we’re talking about where the money is, what you’re not allowing for is a change in what constitutes the market.

In other words, if the market becomes fragmented — and Pitt is a bad example because its fans are located in roughly the same geographic area — and your viewers are not located in one place, you would need to find new ways to reach your market other than just beaming your programming to a certain region. I think that’s why things like and exist.

And, sure, ESPN will throw money at the city of Pittsburgh, but I was suggesting that Pitt itself should try to nurture the interest of its own fans rather than concentrating on bringing in markets like Houston or Dallas/Fort Worth that aren’t going to care. Heinz Field is never full and most people leave after the third quarter. Though they ultimately succeeded, the university struggled to get an FM deal for their radio broadcasts and coaches shows. There’s an argument to be made that we don’t have the best fans in the world, but I just don’t see how bringing in schools that no one identifies with in any way is going to either service the existing fan or bring new fans.

Comment by JTC 11.08.10 @ 1:07 pm

JTC: You are correct. ESPN and others are always looking for new ways to reach audiences and the Internet, phones, etc. certainly provide that. But those viewing numbers are still tiny compared to TV.

The problem is that in most cases, your largest fan base tends to be in the market that your school is in. That is a combination of alumni and local bandwagon fans. Exceptions are “national” schools like ND, the service academies, and the huge state schools to some degree. That’s why I also think markets will continue to dominate. Delivery methods will continue to fragment, but not necessarily the market for the product itself. Does that make sense?

I do agree with your point about moving into markets for the sake of just trying to get bigger markets. That’s another reason I like UCF as an add. There will be a natural rivalry built with USF, and there are probably a lot of BE fans in Florida. Don’t know if you know, but Florida is the #2 state with Pitt alumni, well behind PA of course and we’re spread all over, but I’m betting it’s that way for many other BE schools too.

Comment by TampaT 11.08.10 @ 2:00 pm

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