The Big East is getting left on the 20-yard line in the early bowl reshuffling.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Beat Kentucky. Fill the stadium. Thump
North Carolina. Excel on national TV. Win the Big East. Sell more Orange Bowl tickets
than any piñata the Atlantic Coast Conference provides.
Wait for a gap between the tackles.
Rush through that gap to the first available seating outside
the Big East.
I don't have to borrow a copy of Charlie Strong's playbook
to know what the game plan should be for the University of Louisville this
Hang 10 or more wins, including one in the Orange Bowl, to
convince somebody (keep reading, Mr. Big 12 commissioner) to invite the
Cardinals into one of the five leagues that are already working to control the
central nervous system of college football.
Look beyond the euphoria of the national four-team playoff coming
in 2014, and you'll notice one league is stuck on the 20-yard line – the Big
The Big Ten will give up Lake Michigan before it surrenders
its spot in the Rose Bowl – and the Pac-12 is lined up as the Big Ten's lead
The Southeastern and Big 12 conferences have already
established a grandmomma to the Rose Bowl's granddaddy but agreeing to put
their best non-playoff teams in a new bowl.
The name isn't important. Make note of the location – New Orleans, a place that screams days
(and mostly nights) of stumbling to your knees to celebrate football.
Not St. Petersburg. Not Charlotte. Not Memphis. Not
Nashville. It's New Orleans – where championships are decided in college
football, the NFL and college basketball.
As usual, the SEC does it right.
On Tuesday, Michael Jordan's old league joined the fun. An
old Tar Heel, ACC commissioner John Swofford, moved swiftly to secure the ACC's
spot in a bowl game with swagger by cutting a 12-year deal with Orange Bowl.
The ACC even has the juice to roll the kickoff time back to 1 p.m. on Jan. 1.
Is the ACC deserving? Noooo, as my sidekick Eric Crawford
deftly noted in his column. But being bold is more essential than being
deserving today. Give the ACC credit for bravado.
No mention was made of the Big East – even though the ACC's
record in its last 10 Orange Bowl appearance is 1-9, with six losses by double
The eight head football coaches in the Big East have a
combined 10 seasons of service time in the league. I've got tape recorders that
have been around the league longer than that.
With an interim commissioner and so many fresh faces, the
Big East doesn't have anybody who can speak boldly and effectively as an
advocate for the league, not in football.
Sources say that Virginia Tech, a program that considers
itself as lordly as the finest SEC schools, huffed and puffed to sell 6,500 of
its allotment of 17,500 to watch the Bookies get handled by Stanford and
quarterback Andrew Luck, 40-12, two seasons ago in the Orange Bowl.
The Stanford Cardinal would have beaten the Cardinals that
season, too. They would not have thumped Louisville at the Orange Bowl box
office. I have watched Louisville fans travel to the Fiesta Bowl (1990), the
Motor City Bowl (1998), the Gator Bowl (2005), the Orange Bowl (2006) and the
NCAA Final Four in four different locations.
They show up.
They buy their share of tickets – or more. They want to be
included in moments like the Rose Bowl, a game in New Orleans or the Orange
Bowl. They just need to convince a commissioner
from one of the leagues that is outflanking the Big East.
This season – with the Cards positioned to win the league
football title – is a perfect time to find a gap and move through it.