Editor's Note: The story below is the first of an 11-day series of BIG EAST football related content that will be posted to the BIG EAST Digital Network leading up to football media day on Aug. 2, when the conference will produce a first-of-its-kind live studio show exclusively for the BIG EAST Digital Network. For more information on the live show, click here.
Maybe one day, one of the eight current BIG EAST coaches will enter his 46th season as the head coach at his current school, as Penn State’s Joe Paterno is doing this year.
Granted, it’s unfair to compare any coach’s length of service to the venerable Nittany Lion leader who has set the standard, particularly when the BIG EAST has only one coach on its sidelines with more than two years of head coaching experience at his respective school.
In fact, Greg Schiano, the BIG EAST’s longest serving coach, actually has a tenure at Rutgers that is four years longer than the rest of the league’s coaches combined.
But what the collective BIG EAST coaches lack in terms of tenure at their current schools, they compensate with pedigrees that are second to none. Consider these accomplishments among the five returning coaches:
• Cincinnati’s Butch Jones took Central Michigan to three straight bowl games, won two Mid-American Conference titles and was a combined 22-3 in that league.
• Charlie Strong won two BCS National Championships as defensive coordinator at Florida, and led Louisville to a bowl win in his first year with the Cardinals.
• Greg Schiano has taken Rutgers to five bowl games in the last six years and was the 2006 National Coach of the Year.
• Doug Marrone inherited a three-win team at Syracuse and, in just two seasons, had the Orange defeating Kansas State in the first New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. His tenure at Syracuse came after he ran the NFL’s top-rated offense in New Orleans in 2008.
• Skip Holtz has taken his teams to five consecutive bowl games after he led USF to a win against Clemson in last year’s Meineke Car Care Bowl. That came after Holtz turned around East Carolina to the tune of back-to-back Conference USA titles.
Now for the newcomers.
For a second straight year, three new coaches join the BIG EAST and this year’s crop has a unique blend of southwestern newcomers and a familiar face.
Todd Graham and Dana Holgorsen bring their highly touted offenses to Pittsburgh and West Virginia, respectively, and will look to bring a new level of intensity to the Backyard Brawl.
While Graham has made his name coaching high-flying offenses at Rice and Tulsa, his background on defense and he served as West Virginia’s defensive coordinator from 2001-02.
"Pittsburgh is a tremendous football city with great fans," Graham said when he was hired. "We will work diligently every day to earn their respect and build a program that competes for and wins championships. I'm also excited to return to the Big East."
Holgorsen is unquestionably an offensive-minded coach. During his last two years as an offensive coordinator – first at Houston then at Oklahoma State – his units have finished first in the nation in total offense.
"Getting good on offense or just getting good in general is 50-percent recruiting and 50-percent developmental," Holgorsen told the Charleston Daily Mail. "And it's a gradual process."
Paul Pasqualoni, who coached Syracuse from 1991-2004 and is the league’s all-time winningest coach, returns to the league to lead Connecticut. Pasqualoni has spent the last six years in the National Football League as an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins. But the Connecticut native did not hesitate to jump at the opportunity to return to the Nutmeg State.
"This is a young man's game," Pasqualoni told AOL Fanhouse when he was hired. "And I feel young. You are as old as you feel. My passion for football, the energy and all those things – I feel better today and more active. I feel like I have more juice today than I did 10 years ago."
Pasqualoni has won four BIG EAST titles and took his Syracuse teams to nine bowl games in his 14-year run, hardly making him a newcomer to the league. But he joins Graham and Holgorsen to strengthen the BIG EAST contingent to the point where it might well be the best group of coaches in college football.
And maybe in 2055, coach Paterno might have some company.