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On college football

A big plan for Big East

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / September 30, 2011

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We have heard enough of all the problems in college football with the ongoing conference realignments and the quest for more money.

We watch in dismay as conferences such as the Big East flounder without an obvious plan. We watch the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference strive for at least temporary closure, while the Pac-12, Big Ten, and Atlantic Coast Conference sit back and watch, content over their arrangements - at least for now.

We have also seen some strange things on the field, none worse than the missed call and missed replay of a botched extra-point attempt in the Syracuse-Toledo game last week.

It is time to offer some solutions.

Let’s cut to the chase on conference realignment. The Big 12 must replace Texas A&M and probably Missouri, although the Tigers are taking their time on a decision.

If the SEC has its way, it will scoop up Missouri and be done with it. The Big 12 will then focus on . . . whom? BYU, Louisville, TCU, Boise State, SMU? TCU is supposed to join the Big East next year but could be headed to the Big 12, creating more chaos.

The Big East is the league clearly in jeopardy. League presidents will meet in Washington, D.C., Sunday to talk about a new television contract and a configuration of the league. For a change, the Big East must be proactive rather than reactive.

Here’s our plan for the Big East, which would expand it to 12 teams in football and 20 in basketball.

FOOTBALL
Gavitt Division

Rutgers
Connecticut
West Virginia
Temple
Central Florida
Villanova (or Massachusetts, if Villanova chooses not to move to the FBS level)

Tranghese Division
Cincinnati
TCU (could join Big 12)
Memphis
Louisville
South Florida
Houston
Navy

This plan would create a championship game and expand television markets to Texas (Dallas and Houston) and Florida (Orlando).

College football needs rivalries to thrive. Make Central Florida and South Florida start the regular season each year on Labor Day weekend. They could even end it in the Big East title game if they are worthy.

This would solidify what is available in the Northeast and provide, at the very least, stability. If the service academies want to be part of this, they can be considered, along with Houston, Memphis, and UMass.

BASKETBALL
Pod 1
Rutgers
St. John’s
Seton Hall
UConn
Providence

Pod 2
Villanova
Temple
Georgetown
West Virginia
Saint Joseph’s (if UMass is not part of the package)

Pod 3
Central Florida
South Florida
Memphis
Louisville
UMass

Pod 4
TCU (could join Big 12)
Cincinnati
Houston
DePaul
Marquette
Notre Dame

Make the regular season mean something, by allowing only the top three teams in each pod to make the Big East tournament in New York.

This would solidify the Big East and would give Conference USA and the Mountain West, who are already talking about merging, an easier task. It would also allow Notre Dame, if it chose, to move into the Big East in football any time it wished.

All of this assumes, of course, that the Big East stays together, which is no guarantee. There is a strong sentiment among some schools - West Virginia, Louisville, UConn, and Rutgers - to take what money they can and run as fast as they can.

Don’t be surprised if the Big 12 makes a massive move east and gobbles those four teams, along with BYU, and extends its footprint into the New York City market.

If you want an interesting subplot to a big game, take a close look at Alabama-Florida tomorrow. Two top SEC teams is a given, but the battle between Florida offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and Alabama defensive mastermind Nick Saban will be a chess match worth following. Both are brilliant at what they do. Both have egos to match their skills. Alabama has better players, but don’t discount what Weis - a better offensive coordinator than head coach - can do.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at blaudschun@globe.com.

The Globe Top 10

1. LSU

2. Alabama

3. Oklahoma

4. Boise State

5. Oklahoma State

6. Stanford

7. Wisconsin

8. Nebraska

9. Virginia Tech

10. Oregon