Sell-out crowd. National TV. BCS bowl bid on the line.

Big East officials couldn’t possibly have been beaming with more pride and satisfaction, could they?

Ummm …

Talk about a slap in the face or a swift kick to the nether regions. On a night when the conference should have been enjoying some exposure and some positive words, the prevailing theme that enveloped the proceedings Thursday at High Point Solutions Stadium in Piscataway, N.J., was hardly Big East-related.

More like, oh, here’s a couple of rent-a-cops finishing up their shift before heading over to that prettier, more stable mall a couple miles over on a permanent basis.

With Louisville announcing its intent to join the ACC in 2015 earlier this week, and Rutgers rejoicing over moving into its true home in the Big Ten by 2014 last week, current “affiliation” could muster little more than background-noise rating.

This is what the Big East has been reduced to at this point: a stage for intercollegiate athletic programs to showcase their worthiness … of something better than being in the Big East.

Ouch, that’s gotta hurt – in a pride sense right now, for sure, and in a financial one just as certain in the future.

You can’t blame the schools for bolting. The money is better. Their new conferences carry far more cachet around the country. Their prospects for both success and survival have improved dramatically.

It’s just you could almost hear a tear drop all the way up in Providence, R.I., headquarters for the Big East, as the game went on. Or maybe that was brain seepage coming from the Rutgers sideline as its coaches refused to all-out blitz a completely immobile Teddy Bridgewater every snap he took, allowing the Louisville quarterback, bum wheel, broken wrist and all, to pick the host Knights apart.

But that’s another story for another time … maybe at some diner in East Brunswick, N.J., about 10 years from now as a couple RU football fans remember the good ole days of competing for an outright conference championship before the Knights square off against Maryland in their annual battle to stay out of the Big Ten basement.

Maybe …

Thing is, this was just another shiv in the back to the Big East. Maybe conference officials should have seen this coming – oh, say, from as far back as when Miami and Virginia Tech started the migration elsewhere, both opting for the ACC in 2004. Boston College joined them there a year later. Syracuse and Pittsburgh will next year, and, of course, Louisville will in 2015.

Rumors have it that either Cincinnati or Connecticut or both may take that Big East-to-ACC leap in the near future, too.

Meanwhile, West Virginia hightailed it to the Big 12 this season and, of course, Rutgers heads to the Big Ten two years from now.

So, yeah, OK, this isn’t exactly new stuff for the Big East. It’s experienced loss – serious loss – over the eight years. It’s not really surprising anymore.

But, still, it was a bit much to witness Louisville and Rutgers holding court on the Big East’s platform, and essentially using it to say, “Thank heavens we are off to bigger and better things.”

Oh yeah, the Cards, 20-17 winners, added: “We’ll take that BCS bowl berth with us while we’re at it, too.”


– Aside from the mostly regrettable all-black unis, complete with indecipherable numbers, worn by Rutgers Thursday night, the Knights also paid homage to former head coach Greg Schiano. The architect of the program’s rise from absolute drek, Tampa Bay’s current leader made tons of proclamations and had many sayings during his 11-year stay at New Jersey’s state university – one of which was, “Forget about me … I love you.” In honoring him, every Knights jersey had F.A.M.I.L.Y. printed on the back where a name normally would be. It was cheesy, even gaudy maybe … yet classy.

– The QBs for Saturday’s SEC title showdown sit atop the nation’s quarterback rating leaderboard. Georgia’s Aaron Murray is No. 1 at 177.1 Alabama’s AJ McCarron is No. 2 at 176.3.

– By staying at LSU and accepting its extension, coach Les Miles will be earning $1.2 million less per year than if he had accepted an offer from Arkansas this week.

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