The Big East’s expansion, depressing as it is, make sense

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Rudy is, without a doubt, one of my favorite movies of all-time.

Every time I hear that theme song, every time I listen to the crowd chanting “Rudy”, every time I see Sean Astin make that goofy leg kick before coming off the edge to sack the Georgia Tech quarterback, I’ll admit it — I get a little dusty.

The interesting thing about that movie is how they portray Dan Devine, the Notre Dame head coach that, first, didn’t want to dress Rudy for his final game and, second, didn’t want to give Rudy a chance to play in that final game. The line that always stood out to me? The “What the hell is he doing?” Devine dropped as the Irish offensive players did their best to give Rudy, a walk-on defensive end, a chance to get on the field.

Devine’s reaction to Notre Dame running up the score for their teammate is EXACTLY the way I reacted when I heard the news this weekend that the Big East had sent invitations to five — and possibly six — schools. According to Andy Katz, Central Florida received an invitation in all sports to join the conference. The league also sent conditional invitations to Houston, SMU, Boise State and Air Force, saying that those invitations would be valid so long as they are accepted by Houston and SMU in all sports and Boise State and Air Force in football. The Boston Globe is also reporting that Navy received a football only invitation.

So, in the immortal words of Dan Devine, I ask you “What the hell is John Marinatto doing?”

The (really, really) Big East’s plan to counter-expansion is to add football programs from Colorado and Idaho, two athletic departments from Texas and a second school in Florida? Is it any wonder why Louisville, UConn and West Virginia are chomping at the bit to get away from this disaster of a conference?

Marinatto is obliterating the basketball product this league had by bringing in three schools that struggle to finish in the top half of Conference USA. He’s made traveling for those marquee, weekday matchups between the Providence and SMU women’s volleyball teams an absolute nightmare. He’s trying to save the Big East’s BCS standing by adding two football programs that are farther west that schools in the Pac-12.

Boise State, Air Force, SMU and Houston have no desire to be in the Big East. None. They are just like TCU, who was so excited to join the Big East before they got an offer from the Big 12, happily paying a $5 million exit fee to a league they never spent a day as a member of. Those four schools are simply looking for a way to get a taste of the BCS. Boise State is sick of dealing with people that don’t believe they deserve a shot at a BCS bowl or the national title game. Houston and SMU don’t want to play “little brother” now that TCU has joined the ranks of Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech and Baylor in a BCS league. And Air Force simply wants to upstage the other service academies.

The ironically depressing part of this whole drama?

Marinatto doesn’t have a choice. The Big East has to expand. They can’t go with just six football playing programs if they want to maintain their BCS Standing, and only adding a couple of schools does nothing to helped promote stability in the league. What better options do they have? Notre Dame certainly isn’t going to become a football playing member. If the league can’t hang on to its current members, how will it be able to poach a program from one of the other BCS conferences?

There were other options — Temple has a Big East calibar hoops program and used to play Big East football; Villanova could have had their football program elevated to D-IA; Memphis has a great basketball program and the potential for a competitive football team. But its not like those choices were all that much better.

Its depressing, really.

The Big East didn’t have another option. They backed themselves into this corner. It makes you wonder how their leadership is still, you know, their leadership.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.