Big East Friday mailbag

I hope you can tear yourselves away from coverage of the Royal wedding long enough to concentrate on some football. I've spent approximately zero minutes watching or thinking about the proceedings across the ponds.

Let's kick start the weekend with your questions:

Terry from Cincinnati writes: Don't the Big East football schools need to have a conference leadership focused on football and maintaining their BCS status versus a leadership that seems entrenched in the past and maintaining relationships with schools that will eventually damage the football schools? Doesn't that mean that the football schools really need to split off and form their own league? Is Villanova really an option for a league that wants to be taken seriously in college football? Everything I have read says football is what drives revenue for these schools. This is something that needs to be settled. Enough time has been given for it to happen! Frustrated!

Brian Bennett: It's a tricky situation for John Marinatto and the conference leadership, who ultimately are hired to represent every member institution in the Big East. That means their job is to look out for the Seton Halls and DePauls of the world as well as the West Virginias and Rutgers. I totally get why the conference wants to protect its basketball brand, which is really valuable and a proven commodity for TV revenue.

But I do think the league is being a little shortsighted at times in not working for its best interests in football as much as possible. If the football schools split off, you'd have an average football conference without some of the cachet of big Eastern markets. I personally would like to see the Big East trim some of the underperforming basketball-only schools and add a strong football program or two. But it's easier said than done.

Greg from Pittsburgh writes: I know it's annoying to keep talking about conference expansion, but here's a hypothetical situation. Suppose the football side has had enough and decides to split from the basketball schools to have a more football-centric conference. What happens to the conference's BCS bid and NCAA tournament bids?

Brian Bennett: If -- and that's a big if -- that were to happen, the BCS bid should be safe since, in the eyes of the BCS power brokers, it would be the exact same league. The basketball side would be more interesting. Assuming two new leagues were formed instead of some merger with the Atlantic-10, then the NCAA would have to certify an extra automatic bid, which would take away another at-large bid from the field. Given the high-profile teams involved, that would almost certainly happen.

Jim C. from New Brunswick, N.J., writes: With Villanova biding its time, it's given me time to think. Everyone seems to assume that Central Florida would get an immediate phone call should 'Nova say no, but, I have another potential idea. Why not Delaware? The Blue Hens have spit out big time NFL QB's like Joe Flacco and Rich Gannon and have won a national title within the last 10 years at their FCS level. They are in fact the team in the Philly Metro Area that draws the most fans on average, not 'Nova, and though their stadium is smaller than Cincy's Nippert, it is bigger than the one 'Nova is currently working with. I can't see why they at least haven't been mentioned yet.

Brian Bennett: The Big East is only going to take on an FCS building project and wait several years for that team to be competitive if it is already a member of the league. There is zero benefit to taking that risk while also adding an 18th team.

Eddie from Storrs writes: I was just looking at the 2011 schedule for all schools and wanted to know what your thoughts were for the scheduling of UConn-Rutgers on Nov 26, "Rivalry Week." I personally love it. I mean you've got matchups on that Saturday like Auburn-Alabama, Oregon-Oregon State, and Ohio St.-Michigan. I mean that's pretty cool how the Big East is trying to push for this rivalry Unfortunately with such big games that day the broadcast will probably be stuck on ESPN3, but it's at the Rent so that dosen't matter to UConn fans.

Brian Bennett: The Big East is trying to make that Thanksgiving Saturday a bigger deal, which is why the league asked South Florida to move its game against Miami to a week earlier. And it makes sense, with TCU coming in and the league going to eight conference games, for the Big East to have the final two weeks of the season stacked with appealing matchups. Rutgers-UConn is growing in intensity after some exciting games of late, but it still has a long, long way to go to match the rivalries you mentioned, or even the "Backyard Brawl" that will be played a day earlier.

J.D. from Washington, D.C., writes: I just read that Cullen Christian will be leaving Michigan and attending Pitt. Christian marks the second DB from Michigan to transfer to Pittsburgh. This seems like a good sign for Pitt fans, but is Todd Graham going to be able to land high-end talent on his own and not just pull others' (RichRod) recruits? I know there is a lot of competition for Western PA HS players (Pitt, WVU, PSU, OSU) but does Pitt still rank last on that list like we have over the past decade?

Brian Bennett: The book is still out on Graham's recruiting. Obviously, he will be going after a higher-caliber recruit than he did while at Tulsa or Rice. It's impossible to judge him on his first class at Pitt, since he had what seemed like about 24 hours to salvage a battered class after two head coaches were fired the previous month before he arrived. All in all, I thought he did a nice job getting something out of that class. It helps that he has assistants who really know the area, and Pitt has had plenty of talent come through there, as you'll be able to tell from this year's NFL draft.

Patrick L. from New Brunswick, N.J., writes: I am writing to you as a fellow fan and believer in Eric LeGrand. As Eric's attitude has inspired many of us on campus, we look to contribute and help out as much as possible. So as an initiative to help Eric, my friends and I have started an organization on campus that will coincide with David Tyree's Team Believe. Our on-campus initiative will be training together in Eric's honor for the Mudder as well as raising funds for his Believe Fund. As a fellow runner, I would like to ask you to keep Team Believe on the back of your mind. It would be our pleasure to have you serve as an ally for Team Believe in November's Tough Mudder in New Jersey.

Brian Bennett: You got it, Patrick, and best of luck in your endeavors. I'll be thinking of you during my 13.1 miles on Saturday. And here is a link for Team Believe as well as the Eric LeGrand Believe Fund.