Why won't the Big East stand up to Notre Dame?

Pitt football Q&A with Paul Zeise

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Q: I'm curious as to why the Big East won't stand up to Notre Dame and make them join the conference for football? They take away bowl games from more deserving Big East teams due to fan base (money). All their other sports have greatly benefited from being in the conference.

Robert Hall, McKeesport

ZEISE: Because having Notre Dame affiliated with the conference is a nice carrot to dangle to bowl games and it has helped the process along a lot more than it has hurt. And frankly, if you look at the number of times Notre Dame has actually taken a spot away from the Big East in the last 10 years it has been very few -- 2002 was really probably the last time I can remember -- and if you look ahead, ND can only take the Champs Bowl once in the next four years. So the benefits certainly do outweigh the negative of every so often losing the second best bowl game. Without Notre Dame in the mix, the Big East would have a harder time securing good bowl bids -- at least until it rebuilds and shows it can bring fans and get people interested in watching on television.

Q: Paul - I know this is only speculation, but ... What are the chances of Pitt and Cincinnat both getting BCS bids if both win out and Pitt beats Cincinnati? Two teams at 11-1 would be hard to match in any other conference except the hallowed grounds of the SEC. Otherwise you could have a top 10 team relegated to a very minor bowl which would be disappointing for the Big East (if Gator goes ND).

Dave Kondis, Gibsonia

ZEISE: I'd say there is almost no chance of that happening unless a lot of teams lose. Cincinnati is a nice program but again I ask this -- if you are the Fiesta Bowl and you have a chance to take a 10-2 USC team which is ranked in the top 10, a 10-2 Penn State team ranked in say the top 12 or an 11-1 Cincinnati team -- who are you taking? That is no disrespect to the Big East or Cincinnati but the reality is bowls want to sell tickets and bowls want television sets on. I do think a top Cincinnati team with an 11-1 record would be selected for the Gator Bowl over a 7-5 Notre Dame team and probably even an 8-4 Notre Dame team, though I think that would be a tougher call for the Gator Bowl. One thing that certainly helps the Big East's cause is this: The Gator Bowl in recent years switched from an NBC bowl to a CBS bowl and that's significant because NBC is Notre Dame's home network.

Q: Paul, can you rank the top five Pitt victories of both the Walt Harris era and then of the Dave Wannestadt era? Which list is more impressive?

Luke Turko, Cecil

ZEISE: Walt's best five wins (no particular order): 1. Pitt 38, Virginia Tech 7 (2001) 2. Pitt 31, Virginia Tech 28 (2003); 3. Pitt 20, Boston College 17 (2004); 4. Pitt 16, West Virginia 13 (2004); 5. Pitt 41 West Virginia 38 (1997). Honorable mention to the win over Oregon State in Insight Bowl as well as 1997 Pistol Pete over Miami game.

Wannstedt's best five wins (no particular order) 1. Pitt 13, West Virginia 9 (2007); 2. Pitt 24, Cincinnati 17 (2007); 3. Pitt 26, South Flordia 21 (2008); 4. Pitt 19, West Virginia 15 (2008); 5. Pitt 36, Notre Dame 33 (2008). Honorable mention the South Florida game from a few weeks ago.

So looking at those two lists, they are similar. I think the most impressive win is Wannstedt and company pulling the upset of Notre Dame in 2007 but in terms of importance, Walt has two -- BC and WVU from 2004 -- which directly led to a Fiesta Bowl appearance. So I'll give a slight edge to Walt's body of work in terms of top five wins but remember, the book is not closed on the Wannstedt era or even this season yet.


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