Changing Landscape

Miami: gone. Virginia Tech: gone. Boston College (one year later): gone. And so, with the departure of a trio of the more renowned names in college football lore, the pundits all declared the Big East on sale. Everything at 75% off - the going out of business sale would be the last she wrote of the once promising eastern league.

Mike Tranghese was ridiculed for being blindsided, for standing idly by and letting his basketball conference get away from him. The Internet went wild with speculation, rumors.

The Big East was to die. There would be no second chance. West Virginia was a respected program, but certainly no bearer of any flag. Louisville looked promising enough, but so many others could as well in C-USA.

The going out of business sale was to begin - Everything Must Go. Teams looking to survive had better find a new boat to sail on. WVU to the SEC? Pitt, Syracuse, or Rutgers to the Big 10? Or perhaps, best of all, a WAC-East, since certainly no BE-league team was more than worthy of competing against fellow mid to low-level D1 competition.

Tranghese and his fellow school administrators had other ideas: let's be patient, they decided. Let's be strong in quality, not quantity. Let's use this as an opportunity to build from the ground up.

Strength in quality - not quantity. Interesting theory, at least on paper.

As patience quickly became the virtue of the conference, insistence that the league would once again rise, became commonplace. Commonplace among Big East schools that is.

It was anything but across virtually every other media outlet. Talking heads on the ABC family of stations took their shots - one after the other. Showing no remorse, taking every opportunity to put the ugly duckling down.

But the Big East continued, on a mission of its own, confident in its direction.

West Virginia slowly became the flag bearer. Would it be enough to compete against other bearers?

Louisville came in by storm, and others publicly announced this conference belonged to them. And while it didn't, the program gained respect and showed real promise.

Pittsburgh brought one of their own back. And while results came slower than expected, positive change was obvious, especially among the 17 and 18-year old blue chips - you know, the ones that were supposed to be headed to the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, and Pac-10.

Connecticut quickly established a foundation on which to build something lasting. Indeed, it was quite astonishing at how fast it was built.

Syracuse, despite current circumstances, will always have their tradition, and something to build upon once again.

Cincy was young, but preferentially located in a bountiful location where talent, much as it does in select other places, grows in large numbers.

South Florida, in a similar fashion to Uconn, had sprung from the ground like a spring tulip. With the Tampa area just as rich as Miami-Dade, Miami-Broward, and Palm Beach counties, it was only a matter of time before the Bulls would show promise and progress.

Rutgers - well, they're still Rutgers, according to the nation. But not so according to those that dared take a closer look and find out who the likes of Brian Leonard were. Even, astonishingly enough, after the nationally televised Insight Bowl.

WVU's sweet Sugar triumph was as solid a start as Tranghese and his compatriots could have imagined.

More tests would await as 2006 ensued.

And the script couldn't have been any sweeter for the formerly ugly duckling, on whom praise was now as common as the put-downs and affronts voiced only several short months ago.

The 2006 NCAA's rushing leaders are ... a couple of no-names from the Big East:
Steve Slaton 203-(total) yards 6.2ypc 2TDs
Raymell Rice 201-(total) yards 6.5ypc 3TDs

The NCAA kicked off this week with a number of out of conference games. The highlight for those in the east featured the Big East and ACC. The Big East won the round, 2-1, with the only loss coming on the road.

The Big East went 7-1 as a conference to open up 2006. 3-1 over BCS teams.

The ACC fared the worst among all BCS conferences: 6-4 overall, 1-3 in BCS games, including 2 losses on home turf, and a shutout (home) loss versus a 1-AA squad.

The Big 10 fared best of all: 11-0. The record versus BCS teams was 1-0 (Michigan defeated Vanderbilt in the Big House).

The Big 12 went an impressive 10-2. Of those games, none were against BCS opponents. To make things worse, 1 loss was to a 1-AA team, and the other was to an admittedly good TCU program.

The Pac-10 and SEC went a combined 3-5 versus BCS opponents.

And so, with patience and prudence, with belief that each part is doing their share, the Big East forged ahead doing what it needed to do - slowly but assuredly gaining momentum - to keep all those that want to see the eastern conference dead, at bay.

It's a long season, and the trend needs to continue - at the first slip, the naysayers will magically reappear - but it's a good start for eastern football, Big East style.

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