West Virginia wide receiver Stedman Bailey dives into the endozone...

West Virginia wide receiver Stedman Bailey dives into the endozone for a touchdown against Connecticut. (Oct. 8, 2011) Credit: AP

Defections from the Big East conference have not only left presidents and chancellors scrambling to secure the future of their athletic programs, they also have begun to affect recruiting.

A decision by West Virginia to accept an invitation into the Big 12 would leave the Big East with just five football members. Pittsburgh and Syracuse have accepted invitations to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, and TCU — previously scheduled to join the Big East in 2012 — instead plans to join West Virginia in the Big 12. Earlier this month, the Big East announced plans to expand to 12 members, but has not yet issued any invitations.

Louisville coach Charlie Strong is among those who believe the lack of stability is becoming an issue for prospects.

“The thing that recruits want to know is what’s going to happen with the conference,” he said. “Who’s all leaving, who’s staying? You’d like to have it (resolved) more sooner than later because we’re going to get into recruiting season and I think that’s how people are going to recruit against you.”

Coaches are in an NCAA “quiet period” for recruiting, which means they aren’t allowed to visit athletes, and won’t be again until late November. But they are on the phone weekly with those already committed to the school, making sure everything is still OK.

“I hope everything settles down and we can keep playing (in the Big East), but I don’t know,” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. “I don’t get into it. All I tell ‘em is that I do know who we are and what we are and I’m confident that when all the dust settles we’re going to be in a good situation here at Rutgers.”

Several coaches said they have heard very few questions from recruits about conference realignment. Most of the young men involved in the process, they say, are more concerned about individual schools, and whether they would fit there socially and academically.

“There are so many moving parts and there is so much speculation going on,” Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said. “And really, nobody knows. So, all you can do is focus on what you know and focus on the relationship part of it and why an individual chooses a school and usually it’s not because of a conference, it’s because of relationships and what that institution has to offer.”

But one of the things Pittsburgh and Syracuse now have to offer is a secure future in the ACC. Pitt coach Todd Graham said that has been a boon to his recruiting efforts.

“I think that’s very important to sit back and know that we’re going to be competing at the highest level both academically and athletically,” he said. “And so it has been a positive for us.

“Perception is reality, whatever the national perception is. They do listen to ESPN. They do listen to what people say about the conferences and obviously there are different perceptions about each conference and I think the kids are very aware of that.”

Connecticut coach Paul Pasqualoni said he is intrigued by the prospect of the Big East adding teams such as Boise State, Houston, Air Force and SMU to create a western division to the league.

“(We’d) be in the BCS formula. (That’s) pretty exciting to me and I think pretty exciting to the prospective student athletes,” he said. “I think that would be a very positive outcome for the Big East.”

But South Florida’s Skip Holtz said things are so fluid, he and others are taking a wait-and-see approach with recruits.

“As this started, at the beginning, there were about 30 schools that were going to change conferences and move around and we were going to super conferences,” he said, “and when the dust clears there are just a couple of schools that left and all the conferences are still intact and growing.”


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