Is the Big East as bad as all that? Well, yes and no. This year has been an absolute disaster. There is no way to quantify it as anything else. Not a single team has stood up with a single win that screams - or even whispers - "We deserve respect.'' This league's signature performance of 2010 was arguably West Virginia's 20-14 loss at LSU. Go ahead, name another. The Big East was 0-5 against Top 25 teams from out of conference. It was just 3-11 against teams from BCS leagues. WVU beat 8-4 Maryland, UConn beat 2-10 Vanderbilt and South Florida just beat 7-5 Miami.
It's that last one that really stands out from a perception standpoint, however - as in how perceptions aren't always reality. Miami fired Randy Shannon after he lost to USF. The story in the Miami Herald - and others elsewhere - said he was axed after "a shocking loss'' to the Bulls.
Shocking? Really? Because Miami and all its tradition and the ACC lost to South Florida and its lack of tradition and the Big East?
The ACC will send to the BCS either a Virginia Tech team that lost to Boise State and James Madison and then cruised through the ACC, or a Florida State team that was crushed by Oklahoma and lost back-to-back games to N.C. State and North Carolina. Yes, there will be some of the same howling about that as with the Big East's unseemly representative, but the cry over the Big East will overshadow it to be sure.
Lost in all of that will be recent history, of course. The ACC is 2-10 in BCS bowl games. The Big East is 6-6. Yes, it can be argued that Miami and Virginia Tech carried some of that Big East strength of record over to the ACC, but since those teams (and later Boston College) left the Big East for the ACC the former is 3-3 in BCS bowl games and the latter 1-5.
The ACC gets a pass, though, because it has Miami and Virginia Tech and Florida State. Clemson and Maryland and Georgia Tech have done good things over the past few decades. If the ACC champion loses to an FCS school that finishes 6-5 (as did JMU) or by 30 at Oklahoma, hey, it's just a glitch.
The Big East doesn't get that pass even though Cincinnati was one second (Texas-Nebraska) away from playing for the title last year; West Virginia was a meltdown against Pitt away from it two years before that; Louisville, Rutgers and WVU combined to go 34-5 the year before that; and in the last four years the league's bowl records have been 5-0, 3-2, 4-2 and 4-2.
Why? Because of perception. It can be argued that West Virginia is the only team in the league that has enjoyed anything more than flash-in-the-pan success over the course of the last two decades. Pitt has nine national championships, but really hasn't done squat since Dan Marino and Hugh Green left town, and was awful for a long time. Syracuse was good for a while, but not Jim Brown and Ernie Davis good. No other program in the league has traditional respect, so anytime they rise up (like Cincinnati or Louisville or USF or even Rutgers and UConn) for a period, there is natural skepticism.
All of which brings us back to TCU. Right now the Horned Frogs are hot. They might be even hotter if they manage to sneak into the BCS title game and win it. It may or may not be sustainable success the school is enjoying, but for the Big East it provides a serious bump in perception.
And these days that's what it's all about.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.