Big East presidents are expected to vote on a division format that would place Temple in a new western division. ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy reports via Twitter Temple would be placed in the same division as new conference members Boise State, San Diego State, Houston, SMU and Memphis starting in 2013, when the conference expands.
Temple rejoined the Big East this season and plans to place them in a division with incoming members such as Boise State and San Diego State had been rumored. There had been discussions about a "zipper" divisional format, but the conference appears to be set on setting up a true western division to tack on to the existing conference. To keep things even, one current Big East member needed to be moved.
What is not yet known is how the divisions will be set up for scheduling. Protected rivalries make sense in a conference like the Big Ten, Pac 12, ACC and SEC where traditional rivalries are preserved in spite of division splits but that would not be the case for the Big East, with no true existing rivalries among the incoming schools with current membership outside of South Florida and Central Florida. Any rivalries inside the conference will already remain intact, such as Louisville and Cincinnati.
The decision would have a marketing strategy to it as well, giving western teams a guaranteed presence on the east coast. Philadelphia is one of the largest television markets in the country as well as within the Big East map, but it is a market the conference hopes to expand in when having to compete against other options from Penn State and Notre Dame to the heavy professional sports scene. Having Boise State play to an east coast audience brings eyeballs, even if in marginal proportion. If all goes to plan, the college football audience in the region will pick up more on the Big East brand, and that could pay dividends moving forward for Boise State, San Diego State, Temple and the rest of the conference.
Placing Temple in a west division could also be a temporary solution to a short-term problem. Next year the Big East will have 12 football members but the path to get to 14 remains a possibility not to be forgotten. Remember, Navy will join the league in 2015, bringing back a balance problem for the Big East in football. The conference could still be pursuing another member from the west to balance the football conference out. Air Force would make the most sense, or perhaps be the easiest solution. BYU, though, should be the primary target for the conference.
BYU abandoned conference membership in football for the 2011 season after Utah left the Mountain West Conference to join the Pac-12. While the school has faith in football independence as a way to carry the mission of the school around the country, there are also advantages to conference membership that could benefit BYU in their goals more so than by remaining an independent.
To start, scheduling as a football independent is getting more difficult. Notre Dame's recent agreement with the ACC is proof of that. Notre Dame recently joined the ACC in most sports but remained a football independent. In doing so the Irish agreed to schedule five football games each season against ACC opponents. The agreement benefits Notre Dame in a number of ways, including securing solid games for nearly half of the schedule each year at a time when realignment is causing many schools to reevaluate how they schedule.
The Big East will also have an advantage when it comes to postseason play under the newly approved bowl structure for the four-team playoff. Under the new format, BYU and Army will not have a guaranteed spot in the six-bowl format unless they are chosen to compete in the four-team playoff or finish in the top 12 of the renovated BCS rankings. This makes it much more difficult to play in one of the big bowl games than it will for a Big East champion. The new agreement will provide one of the 12 big bowl spots to the highest ranked champion from the Big East, Conference USA, Mountain West Conference, Sun Belt Conference or WAC. So, for example, a 24th ranked Big East champion could be placed in a big bowl game ahead of a 13th ranked BYU.
BYU stands by their mission, but at what point will the potential to take a higher pay-cut than playing in the Poinsettia Bowl will BYU seriously consider a change in football philosophy?
Adding BYU would even out the west division for the Big East with 14 members. Of course, the east-west balance would still be slanted, leaving one school likely to play in the west. Temple could still be left in that mix, but Navy could be more ideal to replace the Owls.
Of course, the Big East is always invited to review my previous Big East division plans if they wish.