- Last Updated: 3:25 AM, November 10, 2012
- Posted: 1:27 AM, November 10, 2012
Mike Aresco was on the phone with his wife, Sharon, recently when she asked if her husband had been getting any sleep. She was not pleased with the answer.
Aresco’s days since being hired in mid-August as Big East commissioner have resembled those of a presidential candidate in the final weeks before the election and the first days after.
He has been to Idaho (Boise State), Texas (SMU and Houston) and Philadelphia (Temple and Villanova). He will be at Cincinnati this weekend.
He has been working the phone lines with media, explaining in his clear, authoritative and at times passionate voice that his conference is not the “sixth conference,” as it has been dubbed by others.
The Big East, he says, is one of the Big Six, and he has the empirical evidence — his words — the prove it.
When he’s not shaking athletic directors’ hands and kissing presidents he’s on the phone or meeting in person with TV executives, because the next TV deal the Big East signs either will ensure its survival or demise.
This requires him to split time between the league office in Providence, R.I., and a hotel room in New York. Though Aresco knows he totally outkicked his coverage in marrying Sharon, the best he can do right now is discuss sleep — or the lack of it.
Aresco knew he took this job it wasn’t an uphill battle — it was Hamburger Hill. Pittsburgh and Syracuse recently had announced their defection to the ACC. West Virginia was GPSing towns named Lubbock and Waco. The Big 12 and SEC were announcing plans for a blockbuster bowl game.
There was Aresco with his pea-shooter, trying to retake the turf the Big East owned.
“We have proven on the field to be as competitive a conference as any in the country,’’ Aresco said recently referring to in-league play. “And out of conference our record speaks for itself. I’m not just saying this to say it. The empirical evidence is there.’’
Coming into this season the Big East, since 2006, had a non-conference winning percentage of 195-79 (.712), third best behind the SEC and Big 12. It also had the best bowl record of any conference, 43-27 (.614 ).
There have been some great bowl wins, such as West Virginia’s 38-35 upset of Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl and the Mountaineers’ 70-33 humiliation of Clemson in last season’s Orange Bowl.
Last season, the record was 29-16 (.620). This season the record is 14-12 against FBS level competition.
Two problems: West Virginia is no longer in the Big East, and Aresco’s platoon has not exactly provided covering fire this year.
Rutgers, one of the league’s last three remaining undefeated teams, lost at home — on Homecoming Day no less — to Kent State, not Penn State.
Cincinnati, another of his last undefeated teams, lost at Toledo, which just lost at home to Ball State.
South Florida has been a major flop. Connecticut has one league win. Boise State, set to join the league next season and immediately become the team to beat, lost for just the second time at home since 2001.
Rutgers and undefeated Louisville are the only league teams eligible for bowl games. According to CBSSports’ conference power rankings, the Big East and ACC are tied for sixth.
This isn’t good news. The MAC — home to Toledo and Kent State — is ranked fourth.
Under college football’s soon to be implemented playoff system, the highest ranked team from the Big East, Mountain West, Conference USA, Sun Belt and MAC would get a berth.
So it’s time for the infantry to pick up the flag and prevent it from touching ground.
No. 9 Louisville plays at Syracuse and the Cardinals must win. Not only are the Orange leaving the Big East, but Louisville is the only league team in the Top 10.
Rutgers needs to beat Army and keep alive that nationally televised showdown Nov. 29 with Louisville. Remember that 2006 game that set ESPN ratings and gave the league a signature moment?
Aresco is more than willing to lead. Who’s going to follow?Follow @NYPostsports