Big East Conference re-invents itself yet another time

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NEWPORT, R.I. -- Big East Conference associate commissioner Nick Carparelli had that "we've-been-here-before" look and tone about him Tuesday as he addressed the assembled media at Big East media day in the conference room of the Hotel Viking.

For good reason, too, because the conference has been in a similar state of transition before and each time successfully has rebuilt itself.

And that's exactly what is going to have to take place for at least the third time if the conference wants to remain relevant -- or in existence -- and that has been the focus of the league office as well as the remaining members since last year when three more original members -- Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia -- announced they were leaving for other conferences.

That's especially true since the NCAA announced the new four-team playoff format and did away with automatic qualifying status to the Bowl Championship Series for the conference champions of six major conferences and leagues were sent scrambling to make agreements with one of the major bowls in order to have a place for their champion to compete.

The other five leagues quickly got agreements in place, but the Big East was left out, and, as of today, is still holding out hope that it can get in on one of them even if on a contingency basis.

The result is a league in transition as it awaits Pitt and Syracuse to leave and seven others schools to arrive.

Carparelli, technically the senior associate commissioner for football and marketing for the Big East, been a major force within the league for the past 11 years, said that while it may be fashionable to declare the conference dead, it is premature.

"I will say with absolute certainty that the Big East will continue to be the most competitive league in the country," Carparelli said.

"Since the announcement of the new postseason structure of college football, we've seen a number of stories in both print and in television that have been critical of the Big East and pessimistic about our future, but I will remind you that we are barely three months in to a process that won't be in effect until [2014].

"So, it is premature to evaluate our position for the 2014 postseason today when many of the details of the format have not yet been decided so I would ask that you wait until the process is complete, take a look at it and evaluate where we are -- I know you will find that we are in great shape."

Carparelli was the main spokesman for the league because there is no commissioner -- though there is an acting commissioner, Joe Bailey -- and that is the first item of business before the league can accomplish anything.

Bailey said Tuesday there are five candidates and that a new commissioner should be in place by late August. The new commissioner will have two major issues to tackle immediately ---- negotiate a lucrative television package and find a major bowl for the conference.

Neither task will be easy because the conference doesn't have many marquee names, but Carparelli believes things will work out as soon as a commissioner is hired.

"I think part of the challenge is to get the accurate information out there and present who we are as a conference," Carparelli said. "I think because we are different, you will see us doing a lot of different and unique things in the future and that is exciting.

"We're looking at a lot of options [with regards to a major bowl to partner with] in terms of talking to existing bowl games, finding out where we fit in the new postseason format as well as creating some new opportunities for ourselves.

"This year is a transition year, so we have to get through this year as best we can and work on the future and in short time get our message out. We're not going anywhere. We lost some schools but we gained three times as many as we lost.

"We've always been different but we have made it work and realignment is not new to the Big East, and I think you can argue that every realignment we've been through, in some way or another, we've been better and I have a lot of confidence in the schools we have both in this conference and coming in."

NOTES -- Louisville was picked to finish first in the preseason poll of media members covering the league. Pitt was picked fifth. ... Pitt coach Paul Chryst said his focus isn't on preparing for the Atlantic Coast Conference or even the start of this season but rather he first day of practice. "A year is a long time," Chryst said. "We haven't even started practicing for this season yet.". ... Tailback Ray Graham said he was not sure how healthy his right knee is (his season ended last year with an ACL tear), but he will find out next week when the Panthers start camp. "I don't want to put a percentage on how healthy I am," Graham said, "I'll wait to see how I feel when I hit the field." Graham said he will wear a knee brace when practice begins.


First Published August 1, 2012 4:45 AM


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