There has been talk for more than two decades of an Eastern college football league. After the discussion died in the early 1980s, it recently was revived with the Big East's invitation to Miami for next season.
"In the past, Eastern teams have been like ships passing in the ocean," Temple football coach Jerry Berndt said yesterday. "Now, we're going to be like a fleet."
Though no formal invitations have been extended, the Big East has taken its first significant step toward a football-only league made up of eight current independents.
After an eight-hour meeting Wednesday at National Airport in Washington, Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese announced yesterday that the league would add football in 1991 and that the Big East would meet with representatives from Temple, Rutgers, West Virginia and Virginia Tech.
An official invitation is expected to be extended sometime next month.
"We have put forth a tremendous amount of time and effort in laying the groundwork for a football conference," Tranghese said in a statement. "We are excited about the prospect of Big East football."
The league also would include the Big East's current Division I-A football teams -- Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Boston College -- as well as Miami, which officially will join the conference for football and basketball next season.
Tranghese said he hoped for a full league schedule by 1995, but that a partial schedule could be played in a couple of years. Tranghese said that divisional play is not a possibility.
"In 1979, our first season of Big East basketball, we didn't play a full schedule," Tranghese said from the league's office in Providence, R.I. "We'll use the first year as a marketing tool."
There is a great disparity among the new schools as to how many potential Big East opponents are on the schedule. Temple plays five, Virginia Tech one. It is also likely that Virginia Tech, a member of the Metro Conference, would join the Atlantic 10 for basketball, because the other three potential new schools are members.
The announcement comes at a time when Eastern football is at its lowest point in several years. Of the teams being invited to join the league, two (West Virginia and Rutgers) had losing records, and another, Temple, had its first winning season since 1984.
"Obviously, there are some details that have to be ironed out, but we're very pleased and very excited about the possibility," said Berndt. "It's something I've been fighting for
since I got here [before the 1989 season]."
The catalyst for yesterday's announcement came in October, when the Big East invited Miami to join the league. But with only four Division I-A football teams, the league still needed at least two more to get officially sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association for a bowl affiliation.
Big East officials already have spoken with representatives from the Federal Express Orange Bowl, the Florida Citrus Bowl and the Mobil Cotton Bowl about that possibility.
"From a recruiting standpoint, it's going to help a lot, especially if there's a tie-in to the Orange Bowl or Citrus Bowl," Rutgers recruiting coordinator Fran Foley said yesterday. "We're involved with a lot of kids from Maryland and Virginia, and it's going to be an attractive league to play in."
Said Virginia Tech athletic director David Braine: "It will give us immediate identification and an alliance with some pretty good football schools. The marketability of this is something that will help everyone."
Tranghese has made it clear that the addition of the schools is for football only, and that schools interested in possibly joining the highly successful Big East basketball shouldn't bother coming on board.
Asked if his league gave the Big East its blessing, Atlantic 10 commissioner Ron Bertovich said, "We're not a football league, so what blessing is necessary? If it satisfies the needs of all our [football] schools, it makes sense."
Shape of things
2& The outlook for Big East football:
Team 1990 record
Boston College 4-7
Virginia Tech 6-5
West Virginia 4-7