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Homely Big East (including South Florida Bulls) likely will remain in BCS

For argument's sake, let's begin with this premise: Following the defections of West Virginia, TCU, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, the Big East Conference no longer deserves an automatic bid to a BCS bowl.

Completely agree?

Strongly disagree?

Moderately drunk?

In the end, it probably doesn't matter.

Because the Big East will likely come out of this realignment free-for-all with a weaker lineup and yet the same death grip on its automatic qualifier status.

And that's all University of South Florida fans need to hear.

Funny how these things work out. TCU double-crosses the Big East to jump to the Big 12 but may actually have more trouble reaching a New Year's bowl game than USF.

And Missouri leapt from the Big 12 to the Southeastern Conference but could have a harder time getting an automatic bid than Big East targets UCF or SMU.

Why?

Because while there is certainly less prestige and probably less cash to be had when you're in the weakest of the automatic qualifier conferences, there is a much easier path to college football's postseason landscape. And for fans, that's not a small consolation.

If TCU had actually joined the Big East as planned, it would have instantly been among the league's strongest teams. As it now stands, the Horned Frogs are in the shadow of Oklahoma and Texas.

And do you suppose Missouri will find the SEC, with Alabama, LSU and Auburn, to be a little more challenging than the old Big 12 North?

USF, meanwhile, remains in a conference of middleweights. A league that has sent UConn, Cincinnati, Louisville, Pittsburgh and West Virginia to BCS bowls in recent years. When you look at it that way, prestige may not be all that important.

Now, of course, none of this is guaranteed.

I suppose there is a chance Boise State and the Pips will decide to reject the Big East's invitations this week and the conference will be scrambling to find new dance partners to maintain the BCS-required eight members.

And there's a chance BCS officials will want to review the Big East's automatic qualifier status after the current contract runs out following the 2013 season.

But those do not seem to be the likely scenarios.

First of all, the BCS has never acknowledged there is a mechanism for stripping a conference of its bid.

And even if there are certain criteria involved, I would guess the Big East would have some legal issues regarding interference from other conferences as well as the possibility of undue influence from ESPN's behind-the-scenes maneuvering.

The BCS folks also have had a hard enough time over the years convincing Congress and the United States Attorney General's office that they were not engaging in antitrust violations. Taking an automatic bid away from the Big East might rekindle that fire.

(And isn't it convenient that congressional favorites Navy and Air Force are among the programs the Big East has reportedly invited this week?)

For USF fans, this is truly the only news that matters in conference realignment. You may not like the look of the new Big East. You may be angry that the league was not more proactive in realignment talks. You may be concerned that UCF, SMU and Houston do not have the same cache as Pittsburgh, TCU and Syracuse.

But perception is not nearly as important as BCS politics.

That BCS bid is the only thing standing between USF and irrelevance. Take it away, and USF is just a young school that has never won a conference title or finished a season ranked in the Top 25. It's a program with empty seats in the bleachers and limited name recognition in the TV listings.

If the Big East comes out of this week with enough member schools to keep its BCS bid intact, then everything else is details.

Now would the typical college football fan agree with all of this?

Probably not.

You could make a very convincing argument that the second- or third-best teams in the SEC or Big Ten or Pac-12 deserve automatic BCS bids more than the champion of a watered-down Big East.

Look at it this way:

If you incorporate all of the proposed conference changes, the SEC could claim its future lineup will have finished in the top five of the AP poll 14 times in the past 10 years. The Pac-12 would have a dozen top-five finishes, and the Big 12 would have 11.

In that scenario, the Big East's only argument would be a pair of top-five finishes from Boise State in 2006 and '09. And that's assuming Boise State comes aboard.

So, yes, it's probably a stretch to say the Big East is still deserving of an automatic BCS bid.

It's probably not fair that a weaker conference has the same advantages as the SEC or the Big Ten.

But this is college football we're talking about.

Fair has nothing to do with it.

Homely Big East (including South Florida Bulls) likely will remain in BCS 11/02/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 3, 2011 12:06am]

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