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December 10, 2012

Rooney talks Big East

The Big East recently announced divisions for football and later on Tuesday will release home and away opponents for 2013.

Attention will soon shift to baseball, where decisions must be made regarding scheduling and a possible divisional format.

According to UCF coach Terry Rooney, divisions are likely when the Knights begin Big East play a little more than a year from now in 2014.


"It's kind of up in the air, but prior to the recent changes we had agreed to go to two divisions," Rooney said Monday. "Those divisions hadn't been determined. It would be based on geography and RPI, those things. That's what we had wanted to do."

Rooney said a lot should be ironed out during a Big East conference call scheduled for the first week of January. There's a lot to consider since membership will also change from 2013-14 to 2014-15.

Notre Dame (ACC), Rutgers (Big Ten) and Louisville (ACC) recently accepted invitations to other leagues, though all three are expected to remain in the Big East for the 2013-14 athletics year. Though their exit date is still being negotiated, it's likely they'll be departed by the 2015 baseball season.

14 schools are slated to play Big East baseball in 2014 with newcomers UCF, Houston, Memphis and Temple joining existing members Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. John's, USF and Villanova.

The lineup in 2015 would sit at 12 schools if you subtract Louisville, Notre Dame and Rutgers and add Tulane, who accepted their Big East invitation two weeks ago.

UCF, Houston, Memphis and Tulane certainly enhance the profile of Big East baseball and if the past is any indication should be among the highest-rated teams in the RPI ratings.

It would make sense to include the group with Cincinnati and USF in a Big East "South Division," but Rooney said a format like that may have unintended consequences since the goal is to place as many teams in the NCAA Tournament as possible.

"RPI wise, there's different ways of looking at it," Rooney said. "If you put all the RPI teams together, that will ensure a decent RPI, but you might have a high RPI and finish fourth in your division. Does that help perception wise from an at-large standpoint? Plus, how many teams are they going to take to the conference tournament?"

Clearwater's Bright House Field has been the site of the Big East Baseball Championship in every season but one since 2006.

"Do you continue to take eight (schools to the tournament)?," Rooney said. "If you've got 12 (in the league), you hope you'd take 10. Then how do you determine who goes? If you put all the high RPI schools in one division, everybody may beat each other up. So it all kind of depends.

"I think what will end up happening is we split divisions balancing both RPI and geography, which in my opinion is the way it should be."

Speaking of Tulane, Rooney is a big fan of the move.

"The addition of Tulane is great from a baseball standpoint," Rooney said. "It really is. Tulane has got an outstanding program and they're certainly fully committed to having a nationally ranked baseball program. I think it's great."

Another topic of discussion will be the number of conference games.

UCF has been accustomed to playing a round-robin schedule in Conference USA with a 24-game slate against the other eight teams. The Big East will also play 24 games as an 11-team league in 2013.

Though Rooney said nothing has been decided, keeping the league schedule at 24 games ensures an even split with four home series and four away.

With an even number of teams, Rooney hopes they can have a consistent block for conference scheduling without the need for a bye weekend. In the nine-team C-USA, scheduling had become difficult with a bye weekend that varied from year to year.

C-USA has consistently been the fifth-rated league from an RPI standpoint, which in turn has helped send multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament every year. The Big East was ranked at an all-time high of sixth in 2010, but dropped to No. 11 in 2011 and No. 13 in 2012.

Regardless, Rooney said future non-conference schedules will ensure UCF is never at a disadvantage.

"It's very important from an RPI standpoint that we schedule correctly, not only in conference but in what we do," Rooney said. "I feel very confident because of where we're located in Florida and who you're going to play in the middle of the week that it's always going to be good. RPI wise, we'll be in good shape."

Due to a change in the RPI formula which gives added weight to road games, Rooney said they're now scheduling an additional road series every year.

"This year we go to Florida State again for a weekend series and in 2014 we're going to Ole Miss for a weekend series," Rooney said.

UCF used their C-USA bye weekend in 2011 to travel to FSU for a three-game tilt. The schedules didn't line up in 2012 to play a reciprocal three-game weekend series in Orlando, but the Seminoles did come down for a two-game mid-week series. Without knowing the future Big East format, FSU's Orlando visit in 2014 will also be mid-week.

"It was impossible to determine a weekend series with (FSU) because we don't know our conference schedule for 2014," Rooney said.

UCF's final season in C-USA begins Feb. 15, 2013 with a three-game series against Siena. The league slate begins March 22 at UAB.


Stay tuned throughout the week for more from Rooney, including his thoughts on fall practice and the keys to the upcoming season.





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