Big East sheds Cinderella image

Now just seven weeks from the kick-off of the 2007 football season, Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese declared Tuesday at the Big East Media Day in Newport, Rhode Island that the league is ready to take its place among the nation's elite conferences.

Now just seven weeks from the kick-off of the 2007 football season, Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese declared Tuesday at the Big East Media Day in Newport, Rhode Island that the league is ready to take its place among the nation's elite conferences.

That's impressive stuff for a conference thought decimated by the departures of Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College just a few short years ago. But after last season's strong conference showing – the Big East boasted the best non-conference record in the nation in 2006 – Big East doubters have now become Big East believers.

"I'll talk about last year and this will be the last time," Tranghese told a large media contingent in Rhode Island. "Last year was what I call Cinderella. It all started January 2 (2007) in Atlanta when West Virginia upset the SEC Champ Georgia, which was the first step."

Big East members capitalized on West Virginia big win over the ‘Dawgs to start last year. Louisville, West Virginia and Rutgers each spent time ranked in the Top 10 last season, with the Cardinals and Mountaineers both reaching as high as No. 3 in the major polls.

"I don't know how to describe last season, we get to November and have three undefeated teams," Tranghese said. "I think all of the sudden the country took a look and said ‘these people are pretty good.' But what caught my attention was that our league championship wasn't decided until the last play of the last game. That's how competitive our league was."

Based on last season's strong performance, Tranghese said it's time for the Big East to retire Cinderella's glass slipper. Afterall, the league went 5-0 in bowl games last season, tops in the nation, won a second consecutive BCS bowl game, Louisville's 24-13 win over ACC champion Wake Forest, and boasted the highest rated games on ESPN.

"I think we're tired of talking about Cinderella," Tranghese said. "We're one of six conferences with an automatic berth in the BCS and we're competing to win at the highest level.

With four teams ranked in the preseason Top 25 polls and boasting a handful of legitimate Heisman Trophy contenders, Tranghese expects even bigger things this season.

"As we get ready this year, we have half of our league members ranked in the Top 25," he said. "If you look at the short list of Heisman hopefuls, we have four players listed among the Top 8 or 9 Heisman hopefuls.

"I think this league is a lot stronger than it was last year. To get through this league race undefeated will be very difficult – just take a look at where everybody has to go. In order to go undefeated in this league, you're going to have to go on the road and beat some really, really good football teams."

That's doubly true for Louisville, who must travel to West Virginia and South Florida, both preseason nationally ranked programs.

The league also welcomes two new coaches: Steve Kragthorpe at Louisville and Brian Kelly at Cincinnati. Kragthorpe led Tulsa to three bowl games in four seasons, while Kelly led the Bearcats to a win over Western Michigan in the International Bowl.

"We've added two high quality coaches and two high quality individuals," Tranghese said.

Kragthorpe, quarterback Brian Brohm, wide receiver Harry Douglas and linebacker Malik Jackson represented Louisville in Newport for Big East Media Day.

2007 Pre-season Media Poll

1. West Virginia
2. Louisville
3. Rutgers
4. South Florida
5. Cincinnati
6. Pittsburgh
7. Connecticut
8. Syracuse


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