How can you not like Bill Stewart? He comes across a genuine, straight-shooter. And crazy like a fox. Stewart in his folksy way today basically said that he sees a future without the Big East. He's not worried, because West Virginia will probably land in the SEC or the ACC. Yep, he said it. Here it is.
So kindly, straight-talking Bill Stewart just served notice: If the Big Ten is going to start poaching Big East teams, don't expect West Virginia to hang around. The purpose of this announcement? Dunno. Maybe to shock the Big East leadership into some kind of action? Maybe to assure 'Eer fans that the Old Gold and Blue isn't going to be left out in the cold? Could be either, or, both or more that we can't even fathom at this point.
The most important recipient of the message is a party for whom it is not actually intended. That's Jack Swarbrick and pals at Notre Dame. Jack's still monitoring the situation as he said he would. Here's what he's hearing. Big East teams that might not be considered for Big Ten membership are openly saying they wont remain in the rump of the Big East after it's been picked over by the Big Ten. So Notre Dame's desire to stay independent in football and a Big East member for all other sports? Well Jack the Big East you might be a member of could be a lot smaller real soon.
West Virginia has been a loyal member of the Big East and has been the flag-bearer for the conference during some pretty bleak post ACC raid days. It was West Virginia that knocked off Georgia in a BCS bowl. Yes that it is an SEC team. It was West Virginia that knocked off Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl even after Rich Rodriguez bailed on the 'Eers to head for Michigan. Yup, a Big 12 team. And it was West Virginia that also knocked off Georgia Tech and North Carolina in the Gator and Meineke Bowls. Sorry bout that ACC.
For a Big East stalwart like West Virgina to say that it's looking forward to a future without the Big East means one of two things. Either the Big East better get it's act together and do something proactive to ensure the survival of its football conference, or it won't have one.
What could the Big East do? A helluva lot more than what Commissioner John Marinatto was quoted as saying on Tuesday. John was happy to tell the Times what he thinks his job is. Here it is:
"My job is to keep everyone grounded and to improve the conference and insulate it from changing.”
Insulate it from changing. Fabulous. So basically, just make sure the basketball only schools don't get outvoted in the 16 team conference. Reactionary strategy like this is not going to save Big East football. It's a way to guarantee it's death. What could the BE do? Well John, have you figured out yet that if the Big Ten and Pac 10 expand, the Big East will be the only BCS conference without 12 teams? I'd start expanding John, and fast, because if you don't have the magic number of 12, you're not going to be in the BCS for long. Apparently that's not important to the BE brain trust in Providence. Just make sure the basketball teams don't get outvoted.
Hell here's an idea. BE football schools, all eight of you, call up the Big 12. Tell them, hey we hear you're being targeted for extinction as well. Waddaya say we join forces to keep these piranhas at bay. Take 6 or 7 of the BE football schools and make an eastern conference of the Big 12. It's now the Big 18. Hey if you lose Colorado to the Pac 10, just move Louisville to the western conference. If you lose Nebraska too, take all eight BE teams and move Cincy to the west. Radical? Sure. Drastic? You bet. Aren't we talking about the actual survival of two BCS conferences here? Do you really think the BCS would mess with this powerhouse? Makes a pretty good basketball conference too. Travel? Not a problem. Five division games, four conference games. So you have to make two long trips a year.
A helluva lot better than "insulating against change."