Making the Case for Delaware in the Big East

Monday, November 15, 2010

Every time a conference announces their intentions to expand, the minds of college football fans become raging torrents, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives. One team rarely mentioned for Big East promotion is the Delaware Blue Hens. The Blue Hens and I go way back and they are my preferred team for Big East expansion.

I think Delaware can contend in the Big East - this year they might have won the league outright. If the thought of Delaware running the Big East worries Big East fans... don't look now but Delaware is getting votes in the AP poll (one less vote than the entire Big East at this point). Today I'll make the case for Delaware moving to the Big East - but if they don't want to go that's understandable... Delaware is taking care of business down in 1-AA for now.

The Delaware television market doesn't amount to much more than a supplemental market for Philadelphia and Baltimore and along with a team like Temple could drive the Philly market home for the Big East. Which isn't to say that the Big East would then own Pennsylvania. Pitt/Temple/Delaware and even throw in Villanova and Penn if you want to - aren't going to touch Penn State in PA. Delaware just doesn't bring enough market to be a great pick for the Big East. The way I see it, with Delaware in the Big East they will come in and start poaching Philly/Maryland/NJ/NY talent without providing a reciprocal recruiting area.

The drawbacks are many, but with teams like UCF, ECU, Houston, Memphis, Villanova and TCU you just don't know what you're getting in the long term. Sure you can have a small piece of a major market, but the enrollment or interested fan base is a huge flaw for half of those schools and the ability to become a marquee name/addition to the Big East is a flaw for all of those schools.

If the reason Villanova was granted football membership was out of convenience it can be argued that Villanova football isn't serious competition for Big East football and in time the Big East will be exposed as football pretenders. If the reason Villanova was invited to the league is because the Wildcats won a national title last year that's relevant too, but Delaware claims six. As you can imagine there is a lot of pro-Delaware information on the Delaware Football Wikipedia page so if you're interested in finding even more advocacy of the #1 Blue Hens - check there.

The Big East would be well served to keep its top coaches. Over the last 4 seasons we've seen coaches find great success in the Big East only to be hired away by other football teams in other leagues. Cincinnati's Brian Kelly,  Louisille's Bobby Petrino and West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez all come to mind. That isn't to say that these coaches would have continued their success at the extremely high level that they achieved when they were in the Big East, but it speaks to the lack of loyalty that has eroded the stability of the Big East's top teams.

When you look at Delaware you see a program that is obviously doing something right. K.C. Keeler is a Delaware guy and while he is a frequent mention for elite jobs in Div. 1-A he doesn't feel the need to chase a paycheck - Keeler is home, and he'll be welcome at Delaware as long as he wants to stay. If Delaware jumps they would join the Big East with bona fide credentials, championship pedigree and stability at the top spot - no other prospective Big East candidate boasts that. It wouldn't be easy for any team to move up to Div. 1-A, but even with DE's small recruiting footprint their coaching stability and football pedigree would let them compete for recruits in any of the Big East states. It would take some time to build those inroads into new territory, but Delaware can do it. They will not have the rich Div. 1-A transfer market that they have relied upon lately, but Delaware certainly have a lot more in terms of football infrastructure (not athletic $$$) than Connecticut did when they made the jump.

Lastly is probably the least significant of all of the reasons why Delaware fits in a 9 or 10 team Big East: culture. I say it's the least important only because of the variety of institutions that reside in the Big East right now. There are the BE football members, public and private schools with varying academic reputations juxtaposed with the basketball-only BE members, typically small catholic schools whose athletic budgets focus mainly on Big East basketball. Academically, Delaware competes with the best of the BE football schools. Delaware is a land, sea, air and urban grant school with fantastic programs in a number of disciplines and an endowment of well over $1 billion. Clearly Delaware would be a welcome academic fit for the football Big East.

For all of these reasons Delaware is my top selection for inclusion into the Big East. The bad news for this plan is that Delaware just doesn't have the TV market that the Big East needs to make a big money ESPN deal. While it is questionable as to whether Houston or TCU can actually deliver their potentially lucrative markets - at least they are each attached to top 10 TV markets. The other main drawback of Delaware is that their basketball would probably not be invited to the conference and would have to continue play in the CAA or jump to the Atlantic-10. Personally, I don't care for basketball but that would rule out a bunch of potential revenue for the Delaware athletic program if they couldn't get Blue Hens basketball into the rich basketball Big East.

Delaware to me is the clear choice to join the Big East but I admit that I'm biased. The television dollars are stacked against them but no other prospective Big East member has the mix of football tradition, academic excellence, institutional financial backing and program stability - all of which makes Delaware not just "an" eastern football power, but the eastern football power. Ruling out the Big East membership of Boston College, Penn State and Maryland, the only other eastern team worth a damn is Delaware.

You heard it here, Big East - now make it happen.




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