Category archive: Houston Cougars

Ah, the holidays. A time when families across America will spend at least a few minutes arguing over how the Christmas bird is carved and divvied up among those around the table, knife and fork in hand.

That brings us to the Big East.

On Sunday, the oft-reported news that seven non-football members of the Big East were leaving to start a new hoops league became official. Though people affiliated with the waning conference continue to act like Frank Drebin in front of the fireworks store ("All right, nothing to see here..."), the schools that are still on board are looking for a new place to land in the not-so-distant future. And potential landing spots are looking into the benefits of potentially bringing some of these programs aboard.

"There's a public face on this where we all act like this is just a bump in the road for the conference," said an administrator from a recently-added Big East school. "But the reality is that behind the scenes we're all scrambling our butts off."

So, who among the schools that are currently in the Big East or who live in the realm of non-Automatic Qualifiers have the most curb appeal? Which five are the most attractive as potential future members of the five big BCS conferences -- ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC -- as they inevitably push toward 16-team futures? (Keep in mind, Notre Dame's future ACC affiliation keeps it off this list.)

With that in mind, here's our ranking of the top five "free agent conference schools," as compiled via conversations with people in the business.

5. Temple Owls

Current affiliation: Big East
10-year record: 43-76, two bowls, 0 conference titles
TV market: Philadelphia (fourth)

No, I didn't expect to see the Owls on this list, either. But as soon as I started making calls, they came up early and often. "They are Rutgers not so long ago," one East Coast AD explained. "If they could ever get their act together in football they could be a giant. They sit in the middle of all that tri-state talent."