Not to say that I predicted Pitt would leave for the Atlantic Coast Conference, especially not the manner in which Pitt and Syracuse bolted from the Big East this past weekend, but I did foreshadow how Pitt could fit into the ACC after the Big East’s expansion talks made it look small.
That the Big East’s solution to conference expansion was to add Texas Christian University, whose ranking ensured an automatic BCS berth, and maybe Villanova wasn’t acceptable to the league’s eight football-playing members. After all, Pitt, Connecticut, Syracuse and West Virginia also have been the top basketball programs the past few years in a league ripe for another raid now that the super-conference restructuring is under way.
Pitt can blame Big East commissioner John Marinatto all it wants but Pitt chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg co-chaired the six-man search committee charged with finding Mike Tranghese’s successor. Where I’ve gone on record saying that the idea of Pitt switching to the Big Ten would have been a bad move, the Panthers had no choice but to be proactive at a time when the college conference landscape is changing so dramatically.
Which brings me to Beano Cook.
I talked with the legendary college football analyst Sunday night to get his reaction. As usual, Beano was never short on hyperbole.
“If there are four conferences with 16 teams and Pitt was not included in one of these conferences, in five years they would have dropped big-time football,” Cook said. “They would have had no choice. Pitt would be playing Duquesne, Robert Morris and Carnegie Tech.”
Or, as it’s now known, Carnegie Mellon.
“I thought if Pitt went anywhere, it would be the ACC. They weren’t going to the Big Ten. I never thought they had a chance. If you told me the ACC was going to 16 teams, I would have said Pitt would be one of them.”
Cook went so far as to say that the move to the ACC “saved” Pitt and Syracuse football, to predict that Notre Dame will join the Big Ten and the formation of four superconferences (ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern) will pave the way for a four-team playoff to decide the national championship game.
That would be, as Cook likes to say, unbelievable.