Big East coaches talk a lot about image

NEWPORT, R.I. – The Big East media day festivities on Tuesday featured plenty of talk about on-field play. But there was even more banter about the future of the conference, changes in the league and its image. See what coaches had to say:

Over half of the football coaches in the Big East conference admitted recruiting is starting to be affected by the unclear future for the league, but even those league coaches asked fans and recruits to give the league a chance – and some time.

"The image is not there now," South Florida coach Skip Holtz said. "We've taken a lot of shots from people around the country but our product is not the problem, it's the image. We have a really, really good product.

"The image will catch the product, we just need some stability and a lot of that will come with time. There will be a day when people say, ‘Why did that school leave that league?' There will be a day."

"We are going to be placed in the best situation for us to compete for a championship. We have a great president and athletic director." -- Charlie Strong

But for now, the league coaches are stuck trying to defend the league to fans, pundits and – more importantly – recruits.

In the just one year, the Big East has seen 12 schools make announcements they are joining or leaving the league. The conference will have a new 12-team football lineup that will begin next fall with Navy and likely another school joining the for the 2015 season.

West Virginia is now in the Big 12, while TCU joined but never made it to the Big East. Pittsburgh and Syracuse will be leaving after this season. Temple has joined this season, while Boise State, Houston, Memphis, Central Florida, San Diego State and SMU will join for next season.

"A lot of people around the country have taken shots at the league unwarranted," Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said. "We have a good product, a deep league every year and that will continue in the Big East."

Associate commissioner Nick Carparelli, one of the candidates to become the new commissioner, pleaded with folks to wait. The conference will hire a new commissioner in the next few months and is also in line for a new TV contract.

Several folks during the festivities said the new TV deal "will do wonders" for the league and where the future might be headed. The Big East is locked in with the BCS until the new four-team playoff begins in 2014.

"I would ask that you wait until the process is complete, take a look at it and evaluate where we are," Carparelli told a group of reporters. "I know you're going to find that we are in great shape."

Many of the coaches, like Louisville Charlie Strong, had the same response noting, "it's something that I can't control."

"We can only handle what we can handle," Strong said. "I let all that be for (athletic director) Tom (Jurich) and President (James) Ramsey. If they think this is the best for the program, that's where we are going to be.

"There's good football in this league and there will be."

But Strong said all of the uncertainty has been leading to recruits asking about the future of his program and the direction it might take.

"It's a question we are getting and we can't answer that question," Strong said. "Every one of them asks the question now. So, recruiting that's where you are feeling the sting right now just because there's so much unknown.

"Guys want to know what conference you are in."

Strong said he knows other schools are using it against Big East teams in recruiting and Jones added, "everybody is looking for a recruiting advantage and that's what some schools are out there using now."

"That happens," Holtz said.

"My focus is trying to get the recruits," Strong said. "We've been able to go beat some people on recruits, but now I'm not sure we'll able to do that because every kid wants a chance to compete and compete for it all. Kids want the chance on the national scene. If there's no answer for it, that's where it becomes tough."

But Strong said he's not giving up on kids and would still go after the top recruits like the staff has been recruiting since arriving at U of L.

"I want to see what is going to happen," Strong said. "Let it happen and then let's move on. We're telling kids let's wait and see, don't make a decision now and give us a little time to see how this falls in place. We will be placed in the best situation for us.

"We are going to be placed in the best situation for us to compete for a championship. We have a great president and athletic director."

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