In their weekly teleconference on Monday, football coaches from the Big East spent as much time defending their league's poor showing against non-conference opponents as they did discussing their preparation for this weekend's contests.
For the first time this season, no member of the eight-team conference can be found among the Top 25 of either the Associated Press or USA Today/Coaches polls and for good reason.
When your conference's premier win of the season is against a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic Coast Conference team - Maryland - then it is very hard to earn the respect of those casting votes each Sunday.
Beginning with Thursday night's 31-3 shellacking of Pittsburgh by the University of Miami, the Big East went 0-3 in nationally televised contests against ranked opponents last week.
Yes, some style points could have been earned with Cincinnati's heart-breaking 31-29 loss to No. 8 Oklahoma. Combine that with West Virginia's 20-14 setback at the hands of No. 15 Louisiana State at Tiger Stadium and the Big East showed its teams can compete against some of the best teams from the Big 12 and the SEC.
But, until those close losses turn into victories, there will be doubt around the country that the Big East deserves to be a part of the Bowl Championship Series.
In fact, the members of the selection committees for the four major bowls have got to be wondering which will be the "sacrificial lamb" that will draw a January encounter between a possibly unranked Big East opponent against a possibly low-ranked member of the Atlantic Coast Conference (which appears to be just as incapable of winning against the other four "Big" conferences).
Logic tells us that the obvious choice to play host to that made-for-television extravaganza would be the Orange Bowl because of its local tie-ins with the ACC, and should the Mountaineers win the Big East title, West Virginians love going to the Sunshine State during the winter months.
Making matters worse for the Big East is its remaining slate of non-conference contests.
The schedule includes Cincinnati playing host to Miami (Ohio), Vanderbilt traveling to Connecticut, Louisville traveling to Arkansas State and then playing host to Memphis, Pittsburgh entertaining Florida International and then traveling to Notre Dame, Rutgers taking on Tulane and Army at home, South Florida meeting the same FIU that takes on Pitt and then facing Miami (Fla.) in late November, Syracuse playing host to Boston College in its season finale and, of course, mighty UNLV making its first visit to Milan Puskar Stadium on Oct. 9.
Not exactly the kind of lineup that will guarantee that fans (other than their own) will be changing stations to watch or that will convince voters that the Big East contains a team worthy of a Top 25 ranking.
What's the answer? For this year, there may not be one. The chance for any league member to get a signature victory already has been lost.
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org