It’s been a running joke for the last few years — the ongoing conference realignment in college football could eventually stretch the bounds of common sense to the point where someone would create a “Big East West” division.
Well, welcome to that point. For the next two football seasons, the Big East Conference will have eastern and western divisions. Well, sort of — any geographic realignment that puts Philadelphia-based Temple in the same division with San Diego State hasn’t ironed out all the kinks.
What does this mean for Navy? And what could it mean for long-rumored Big East expansion target Air Force? Four quick points to ponder after the jump.
1. Target 2015. Reports differ on whether the East-West construction will continue once Navy and a planned 14th team (reports mention BYU or Air Force) enter the league in 2015. The ESPN report linked above says no: Fans can expect nongeographic divisions, which could mean more travel for Navy. CBSSports.com, though, speculates Navy could join the BE-East with Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers, while incoming BYU would play in the BE-West with Boise State, Houston, Memphis, San Diego State, Southern Methodist and the aforementioned Temple.
2. Super 16? None of the new reports mention the rumored 16-team conference that would add Army, Navy, Air Force and BYU to its existing 12-team structure come 2015. This could be good news for all concerned: Fewer teams to split the conference TV money with for Navy, no conference headaches for Army and less confusion for Air Force — either join what’s in place now or don’t, without having to run the numbers on a 16-team, three-academy monster of a conference.
3. About that TV money: The Big East’s exclusive negotiation rights with ESPN are over, according to multiple reports, meaning the conference can shop its games on an open market. NBC, CBS and Fox are all options, and there’s always room to return to ESPN. Two things for service academy fans to watch: Will the eventual deal address the Army-Navy game, which has its own contract with CBS through 2018? And will Air Force be able to turn down joining a league that could increase its conference TV take from about $1 million a year to more than $6 million?
4. Bowl breakdown. While it sorts out its membership and its TV partner(s), the Big East’s place at the Bowl Championship Series table is set, according to this Sports Illustrated report. When playoffs begin in 2014, they’ll come with a six-bowl structure — two semifinal games and four other big-ticket bowl games, with the playoffs rotating sites each year. The winner of the Big East is guaranteed a spot in one of those bowls if it ranks highest among the division champs of Conference USA and the Mountain West, Sun Belt and Mid-Atlantic conferences. SI.com says the Big East has ranked highest in eight of the last 10 years.
Earlier proposals gave the Big East winner a direct path to the BCS bowls, which would’ve been better for Navy — now, pulling an upset in the title game wouldn’t guarantee a low-ranked squad a trip to a big-money postseason game. As for Air Force, an impressive run through the MWC could be enough to reach a BCS game while allowing the Falcons to minimize travel costs — no road trips to division rival Temple, for example.