Hey, Temple football fans (I know you’re out there), a little perplexed as to where your team might be in two years?
Don’t worry. You’re likely not the only fan in the country who isn’t certain who his or her team will be playing in the near future.
The Big East has caught a lot of flack for its seemingly frantic subtracting and adding of members in the past couple years. As of next season, the conference will have gone down from eight to seven members and back up to eight in a matter of three years.
The Northeast’s premier football conference will have no members in the Northeast’s premier media markets: New York, Philadelphia and Boston. And though Syracuse, Rutgers and Connecticut may want to dispute that, they can’t.
But the casual fan must be aware realignment is not the exclusive practice of the Big East. Equally confused fans exist in Conference USA, which will lose three football programs to the Big East this season, and the Mid-American Conference, where your Temple Owls appear headed in 2006.
In short: Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida, Texas Christian and Army will depart C-USA, but Marshall, Central Florida, Tulsa, Southern Methodist, Rice, and Texas-El Paso will join. The MAC will lose Marshall and UCF, but possibly gain the Owls. The Big East, having lost Virginia Tech, Miami and Boston College to the Atlantic Coast Conference, will absorb Cincinnati, Louisville and USF.
Whew. What are the chances of the everyday fan just getting overwhelmed and losing interest?
“Yes, that’s a real possibility,” said Russ Anderson, C-USA Senior Commissioner for Media Services. “Unless you’re working close to the situation every day like I do, it’s tough for the casual fan to keep track. The ACC, Big East, MAC, and a number of other teams are going through similar realignments right now.”
Contrast those conferences with the Big Ten, which last altered its membership in 1990 when it accepted history-laden Penn State, or the Pac-10, which completed its membership with the acceptance of Arizona and Arizona State in 1978.
Those two grand old conferences have been lucky. Believe it or not, conference officials don’t sit around stroking their beards and thinking of ways to alienate their loyal fans. Economics is the most common culprit of realignment, conference spokespeople said.
“We’re certainly going through significant membership change and we’re always concerned about our fan base,” said John Paquette, Associate Commissioner of the Big East. “But these changes started a few years back when some of our schools chose to go to the ACC, and in order to stay a Division I football conference, we had to add those [new] schools.”
So when and if you’re watching the Owls persevere through their daunting independent schedule this season, remember who’s to blame. It’s all about the cash.
And if all that isn’t enough for you, the Owls will face Saint Louis and Charlotte as new members of the Atlantic Ten Conference in basketball next season. Ain’t this merry-go-round fun?
Benjamin Watanabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.