April 19, 2011
It's not for me to begrudge anyone the celebration they rightfully earned.
Regardless of caveats and disclaimers, regardless of extended tie-makers and unseemly head-to-head records, regardless of that prickly reality known as "what actually happened," the Pitt football team was, in fact, the 2010 Big East champion.
That's a fact. Pitt had a 5-2 record in the conference last season, and no team in the league had a better record against conference foes. And by that definition, Pitt was the Big East champ.
But we all know the caveats and the disclaimers, don't we? We all know the results of those extended tie-breakers and unseemly head-to-head records, don't we? And we all know that the prickly reality known as "what actually happened" can be summed up as follows:
Despite holding the best record in the Big East, the Panthers were on the losing end of a three-way tie at the top of the conference.
Unfortunately for Pitt, its two losses came against Connecticut and West Virginia, the other two teams who posted 5-2 records. When Pitt found itself in games it absolutely had to win in order to reach the Big East, the Panthers fell short (just short, in the case of the Connecticut game; ingloriously short in the West Virginia game).
So while I won't begrudge the football program its right to plant a 2010 Big East championship trophy in the entrance to its South Side facility, and I won't begrudge the players their rights to wear their fancy new championship rings - and judging from Twitter, they seem to be enjoying the new bling - but it all rings (pun intended) hollow.
The real determination of a Big East championship is earning the conference's automatic BCS bid. Even though the 2004 team finished in a four-way tie for the league title, those Panthers won the tie-breakers and earned a spot in the Fiesta Bowl.
That's the real goal, and that's the task with which Todd Graham has been charged.