Big East's final season ironic

Coaches and players weighed in on the defections of Miami and Virginia Tech to from the Big East to the ACC last week.

A public dialogue has been taking place for several months between commissioner Mike Tranghese and presidents of the Big East schools about the plans for the future of the conference.

When the story broke back in February, the ACC was rumored to be courting Boston College, Syracuse and Miami to join the ACC. The move would've bolstered both the basketball and football aspects of the conference.

But when invitations were presented a month ago from the ACC, Syracuse and Boston College were excluded, while Virginia Tech instead defected. For most coaches in the Big East, they danced around the issue and preferred to stick to their own plans for the upcoming season.

Temple Coach Bobby Wallace: "My biggest concern is Penn State on August (30). Those questions are out of my hand so I can't worry about it."

West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez: "My concern is more of West Virginia. I'm not hung up on what transpired."

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer: "The first priority is for Virginia Tech to win football games."

Coaches also felt optimistic about the future of the Big East, and that in 2005, when the BCS contract ends with the Big East, the contract would be renewed.

"You're locked into it until the 2005 season," Syracuse head coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "And I would have a hard time believing that if the format stays as is, that Syracuse will be excluded – that the teams in the Big East will be excluded."

While some coaches and players preferred the more diplomatic approach to the situation, Syracuse fullback Thump Belton didn't spare any feelings.

When a reporter asked if there would be any incentive to beat Virginia Tech and Miami because of what happened, Belton nodded his head profusely.

Pasqualoni also hinted that he didn't mind the defections.

"Understand, I was born in New Haven, Connecticut; I went to Penn St.; I coached half my life in Connecticut, the other half in New York. So, what am I rooting for? … And it probably makes more sense for them to be in the ACC. Am I going to get upset at that? If you're in the state of Virginia and you want to compete against Virginia."

Still, with all the teams gathered together for one final time as the Big East as it's known today, it didn't go by with a sense of irony.

Miami, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh appear on almost every preseason top 25. In some cases, West Virginia has been included among the top 25 schools as well. So while the Big East has hit its peak in the quality of football teams, it will be the last year regardless of the success.

"It is a sad irony," Miami coach Larry Coker said. "I still feel that this is a very competitive conference."

"We're losing two quality programs," Tranghese said. "I make no bones about it."

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