The Big East officially became a non-factor in college football when Tulane was added yesterday. (And also East Carolina, which, sure, OK.) It may end up becoming a nonentity now that Louisville is leaving for the ACC.
What happens next? With the presumed conference bell cow getting out, do Boise State and San Diego State decide it's not worth the travel and the hassle of putting all their sports in other conferences, and stay behind in the Mountain West? Now that there are only four voting football members left, do the basketball schools take advantage of their chance to dissolve the conference altogether before new members show up next July? And then what happens to USF? Are we going to have somewhere to go? Anywhere? How far is the fall and how hard is the landing?
Which brings us to Doug Woolard. To use the words that he and Bill McGillis, his hand-picked henchman, said repeatedly in the few interviews they could be bothered to give in the last year or so... what about the remaining Big East is "a good situation?" This league may not even end up as good as Conference USA was 10 years ago. That league still had TCU and Louisville in it, and schools like UAB and Memphis hadn't completely given up on football like they have now. You've asked students to cover up for your massive budget deficits for years now, and you've repaid them with... what exactly? A future of homecoming games against Tulane and Memphis on Wednesday nights? Tiny bowl games against other also-rans in baseball stadiums? Years and years of unimportant games across the board? This is "a good situation?" And don't try and tell me about how it's still a good basketball league, because basketball is not nearly as important to USF fans as football. Check our page views if you don't believe us.
This is much worse than if USF hadn't been playing meaningful games the last eight years, because when you get a taste of a sold-out stadium against West Virginia, you immediately know how futile and pointless it is playing SMU in front of 17,000 people. Doug Woolard walked in the door of the brand-new Athletics building in 2004 with the Bulls' entire future and destiny already laid out in front of them. (Remember, he had nothing to do with getting USF into the Big East in the first place.) Now what does he have to sell to students, or athletes, or coaches, or fans, or donors? We're all going to see right through his BS. What about his employees? Why would any of them stay if they had somewhere to go? They've had to put up with Bill McGillis being Woolard's enforcer, driving away talented people and finding cheaper and cheaper replacements, all while McGillis's salary more than doubled over the last five years.
And what exactly did USF do to make an effort to get out of this conference? Did they rally any media members or people of influence to their side, like Louisville and West Virginia did last year to try and get into the Big XII? How much selling did they do? We figure Judy knew the dance steps from before, but did Woolard and McGillis have any idea who to call or how to act? We don't know any of these things because USF couldn't even figure out how to leak their interest in other conferences properly. The ACC expansion conversation was dominated by talk of Louisville, UConn, and Cincinnati from start to finish. If USF was included, it was out of some kind of obligation to mention them, like, "Oh yeah, I guess they might want to get out too." Even false hope can be better than no hope at all. If fans and alumni know that you were trying like hell to do something, at least it gives them the feeling that you're invested in their school. That you care about what happens to it. That you're not holed up in your office, quietly collecting giant paycheck after giant paycheck, giving out contract extensions whether people earned them (Stan) or not (Skip, Lelo, and yourself), and hoping to retire without too much fuss.
Personally, I still care about what happens to USF. I care a lot. I wish I could say the same for our athletic director. Doug Woolard, if you don't care anymore, at least have the honor to retire and give our university a chance to find a leader that does. Someone who will be ready to promote USF and truly set our school up in a good situation if another chance ever presents itself. Because on this one, you failed us, and it's hard to see how things are going to change. You've taken all of the promise and potential this university's athletic department had when you got here, and squandered it. An opportunity for us to get better, completely wasted.
After 8 1/2 years of trying, you still don't have the best athletic department in the Big East. In fact, you've never even come close.
Why not USF? You, Doug. You are why not.