The Big East doesn't want a repeat of 2010. Here's a look at the top five items on the league's to-do list this offseason:
1. Find a perfect 10: The conference has a stated goal of growing to 10 teams. The addition of TCU in 2012 makes nine. The biggest offseason mission is to locate that 10th team. Villanova is still mulling a possible jump up to the FBS level, while programs like Central Florida and Houston wait by the phone. This is a decision the league has to get right.
2. Fix the offenses: Scoring was down throughout the league in 2010 and was one of the biggest reasons why several teams disappointed. Exhibit A: the paltry offensive outputs by Connecticut and West Virginia in the top two Big East bowl games. The good news is that starting quarterbacks return at six of the eight schools, and new coaches at West Virginia and Pittsburgh are promising to ratchet up both the pace and the points. That will force the rest of the league to catch up, or fall behind.
3. Gear up for nonconference showdowns: The Big East's 3-11 record against BCS AQ conference opponents was the main reason why the league lost respect in 2010. It has to have a better showing in 2011. Luckily, many more of those marquee games this year are at home, including: LSU at West Virginia; Notre Dame and Utah at Pitt; Miami at South Florida; and NC State at Cincinnati. There will still be tough road games (Pitt at Iowa, Cincinnati at Tennessee, USF at Notre Dame, Syracuse at USC, to name a few), and the Big East needs a win or two there, as well.
4. Stop the brain drain: There's only so much a school can do to keep a coach who's in demand. But whatever it takes, Big East teams need to do their best to secure some very promising young coaches now in the league, including Skip Holtz at South Florida, Charlie Strong at Louisville, Doug Marrone at Syracuse, Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia and Todd Graham at Pitt. Seven of the eight schools have named new head coaches since the end of the 2008 season. The turnover has to slow down, whether that means schools offer big contracts or increase the pay to assistants or whatever.
5. Root for TCU: The Horned Frogs are clearly not going to catch any breaks in their last year in the Mountain West Conference, and they lose the nucleus of the team that won the Rose Bowl. The Big East needs TCU to be strong heading into 2012, a potentially major year of resurgence for the league. Maybe one of the league schools should help TCU out with its current scheduling problem. If nothing else, the Big East should send good vibes toward Fort Worth and hope Gary Patterson keeps things moving forward -- and that he doesn't leave before 2012.