I didn't even notice this at the time, but apparently Friday was the five-year anniversary of Miami and Virginia Tech announcing that they were leaving the Big East for the ACC. That's a little strange, because during the Spring Game on Saturday, I was reflecting about how far RU has come. A few years ago, it was a big deal that they could finally comfortably beat Buffalo.
There was a lot of skepticism about the BE, and definitely some rough patches. The conference may have been boned if WVU doesn't convert that fourth down vs. Georgia. My main contention at the time was that teams don't play in a vacuum. In the SEC or Big XII, it doesn't matter how good Kentucky or Baylor play. They'll never crack the glass ceiling. I assumed that Miami would dominate the ACC, but it consequently would push teams like NC State further down the totem pole. No one could have predicted the ACC's struggles the past few years, and it would be foolish to expect them to be down forever, but to have Miami AND FSU struggle the past few years has made expansion work out worse than anyone could have expected. Accordingly, Big East teams would have to step up in fill the void in their conference.
As for the Big East, the current 8 team setup has to stick together for two more seasons according to NCAA rules. The conference is (unfortunately) run by a Providence alum that looks out for the Catholic basketball schools first, and he'll definitely try to keep the 16 teams together for as long as possible. Barring Notre Dame deciding to join for football, or a team like Georgetown or Nova committing to I-A, it's just completely unfeasible for the long-term. 16 teams is far too big for basketball, and the football teams badly want a ninth member for scheduling purposes.
Who will it be? It's almost comical reading the columns in Greenville and Orlando papers, alternating between begging for membership and slamming the conference for not inviting them in the first place. Memphis has pretty much given up at this point. The reality though, is that unless BC or Penn State want to join for 2010, every conceivable metric points towards the ninth member being Temple rejoining the conference for all sports (they were a member for football only from 1991-2004). They're arguably already stronger than Syracuse, and they'll definitely be headed in the right direction as long as Al Golden is their coach. Navy is a non-starter for several reasons, and I kind of expect their program to decline again now that Paul Johnson has left.