Big East tries to stay strong in year of transition

Skip Holtz had a stat to share with reporters at Tuesday’s Big East football media day.

In 2011, according to the South Florida coach, the Big East conference ranked second in the nation in margin of victory in conference games, behind only the SEC.

If this is true or not, I haven’t been able to confirm, as margin of victory in conference games, from two years ago, has proven difficult to track down even in the expanse of the Internet.

But the stat wasn’t as important as Holtz’ point.

“It shows how competitive this conference is from top to bottom,” he said during the annual media event, held at The Hotel Viking in Newport, R.I. “There’s not a game on the schedule where you can say ‘that one should be a win.’ If it’s a conference game, roll them up and get ready to fight.

“The Big East from a product standpoint is extremely healthy. The image isn’t there right now.”

That’s putting it nicely.

A year ago, then-conference commissioner John Marinatto talked about the excitement of a potential television deal, of adding an up-and-coming football program like TCU, and at the league’s continued rise from the transition of 2004.

A lot has changed in a year. The team that earned the conference’s BCS bid, West Virginia, is off the to Big 12, replaced by a team (Temple) that the Big East kicked out almost a decade ago. That up-and-coming TCU program is also now in the Big 12, leaving before it ever even played a conference game.

Two more teams, Pitt and Syracuse, are a pair of lame ducks this season, as they’ll be moving on to the ACC in less than a year. In their place in 2013 will be Boise State, Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, SMU and San Diego State, making the Big East very big, and well, not really East at all.

If all that wasn’t enough, the conference is still void of leadership, after Marinatto resigned in early May.

Holtz is right, but the image isn’t just not on-par with the product, it’s about as bad as it can get.

“A lot of that will be shored up when the commissioner is put in place, the television deal is done, the new teams come in and that stability is put in place,” Holtz said. “But right now, if you told me I could have product or image, I’d say product. The image will catch the product and we have the same opportunity to play-in like everyone else does right now.”

It’s happened before. West Virginia carried the torch then, but Rutgers, South Florida and Cincinnati have been in the national conversation at times in the last eight years. And with a BCS berth still there this season, it could happen again.

“I think we have some outstanding football teams in the league,” Temple coach Steve Addazio said. “I’m not sure where that (negativity) came from and it’s not warranted really. The ACC hasn’t done much lately.

“When I was in the Big East before, you wouldn’t have thought that USF and Cincinnati would be real powerful teams. I would have been wrong, just like people will be in the future. Where is Temple going to be? Where is SMU going to be? UCF? Boise? I think we’ll be strong football teams and that there is going to be a rebirth. We’ve just got to get through this painful process.”

A rebirth might happen, but it might be easier trying to find conference margin of victory stats from years past.

Joe Marchilena can be reached at 594-6478 or jmarchilena@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Marchilena on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeM).