OK, I'll admit: In the days of the old Big East, there was a good deal of pride associated with conference wins. But times were different then. The Big East was perceived, rightfully so, as the sixth of the six power conferences in college football, a sport where more than any other, perception is reality. It made sense to stand tall behind our conference, even though it was a conference any of us would have left in a Madison Square Garden minute if the right suitor - any suitor - would have come calling.
Once the old Big East crumbled and the American rose from its ashes, the die was cast. No amount of conference pride is going to put it among the elites. There was not the same survivalist instinct to root for the collection of schools flying the new banner. And yet somehow, I found myself in Connecticut's corner tonight. There's a new type of conference pride. It's not the "we all we got" mantra that propeled us along as the Big East. This is one of solidarity. Solidarity for those who also missed the lifeboat and remain marooned on the island of misfit toys. Those who were told, implicitly or explicitly, that we didn't belong - for a host of reasons - in one of the power conference. UConn's chip has to be particularly large; they saw the slot that they believed was theirs filled by a team that resides far from the Atlantic coast, a team that I'm sure they couldn't help but noticed exited this same tournament two rounds ago. If UConn, not Louisville, had gotten the call, I'm sure tonight wouldn't have meant much to me, but we now find ourselves brothers in the struggle. To that end, perhaps a fellow USF fan put it best:
I will always be happy for any success that Cincy or UConn has.
— Ken DeCelles (@kdecelles67) April 6, 2014
For those keeping score at home: In its first year, The American has a BCS bowl win, a men's basketball national championship, will play for a women's basketball championship tomorrow, and in my line of work, I'll throw in UCF's WGI guard Independent Open Class championship and USF's appearance in Independent World finals.
There are those who chant their conference name as they assert their dominance. I only ask that you oblige me as we merely assert our presence.