If there was any question of whether the recent surge of conference re-alignment in college football is being driven by money, Athletic Director Bill Bradshaw laid those concerns to rest in an interview with Harry Donahue of 1210 WPHT during halftime of the men’s basketball game on Nov. 28.
Bradshaw, speaking to Temple fans concerned about the university’s future in a fractured Big East Conference, said the financial benefits of membership outweigh the ongoing issue of schools leaving the conference.
“If anyone’s confused and frustrated, just know one thing: It’s the color green,” Bradshaw said. “Think of the color green and that answers all of your questions.”
Bradshaw’s interview came the day after the Big East admitted Tulane for all sports and East Carolina for football, both effective the 2014-15 season. Those moves were in response to announcements by Louisville and Rutgers of the schools’ intent to leave the Big East before 2014.
The Big East will be split into East and West football divisions for the 2013 season, when Central Florida, Boise State, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State and Southern Methodist University join the conference. Temple will compete in the West Division with five of the six new members, excluding UCF, which will compete in the East Division with the remaining five institutions.
“This unique combination of nationwide scope and regional flavor reflects our commitment to innovation in response to the changing landscape in college football,” Big East Commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement released with the announcement of the divisions.
Critics of the Big East’s re-alignment plan point to the conference’s diminished on-the-field product. In addition to Louisville and Rutgers, the Big East lost West Virginia prior to the 2012 season and will lose Syracuse and Pittsburgh after this year. All seven of the schools joining the conference by 2014 will come from mid-major conferences.
But Bradshaw said the Big East is still the best place for Temple due to the media rights deal being negotiated for football and basketball. The TV deal, Bradshaw said, will be significant due to the expansive nature of the new-look Big East.
“I think it’s going to be very lucrative, particularly with the markets being brought into the Big East, such as San Diego, Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Orlando and certainly Philadelphia,” Bradshaw said. “All those markets are going to mean more eyeballs, more exposure and hopefully more revenue.”
Incoming President Neil Theobald said the topic has come up repeatedly in coversations with faculty, staff and students.
“It’s an interesting situation,” Theobald. “It’s got lots of consequences, yet there isn’t a whole lot, as a participant, you can do to impact it.”
It’s unclear what effect the additions of Tulane and East Carolina in 2014 would have on the divisional set-up. The Big East is also looking to add another school, Brigham Young or Air Force, to the conference before Navy joins in 2015 to make an even amount of teams.
“I’m not involved with all these meetings here, but for the beginning part of this thing, we will be on the Western side,” coach Steve Addazio said in a press release on Nov. 13. “I’m excited to do that. I think that’ll be good. We’ll still have some of our regional games in here, and I think it’s a great new beginning and I’m excited for it.”
The Big East will lose its status as an automatic qualifier for the six BCS bowls when college football’s new playoff system is adapted in 2014. A rotation of semifinal games among six bowl sites will be implemented, divided into three “contract” bowls and three “access” bowls.
Teams from five power conferences — the Big 12 Conference, Southeastern Conference, Big Ten Conference, Pacific 12 Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference — will be partnered with contract bowls to fill five of the six slots. The Big East will have to compete with the rest of the country for the final spot.
But Bradshaw maintains the Big East’s future in the postseason remains bright.
“If you look at history, even with the teams coming in compared to the ones who left, it’s a good bet the Big East will be one of the conferences with a bowl,” Bradshaw said.
Joey Cranney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joey_cranney.
Sean Carlin contributed to this report.