NEWPORT, R.I. (AP) – The Big East has three new teams, two new coaches with NFL experience, and a healthier outlook heading into the 2005 football season.

“Two years ago people were telling us we were going out of business,” commissioner Mike Tranghese said Tuesday at Big East media day. “We were losing our BCS bid, we were going to lose our television contract and we’re going to lose all our secondary bowl games.

“I stand here before you two years later – and none of that is true.”

What the Big East has lost is its luster.

Gone are the schools that turned the Big East into a viable football conference when it was born more than a decade ago. Miami and Virginia Tech took up residence in the Atlantic Coast Conference last year and Boston College will join those two powerhouses this season.

It was a messy divorce, especially for Boston College, which spent an uncomfortable 2004 season in the league, knowing it was on the way out. Lawyers got involved and there were some real hard feelings.

Then there was Temple. The league’s perennial doormat was given the boot by the Big East before the 2004 season and also played last year as a lame duck.

That’s all behind the Big East now.

The new Big East football conference adds Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida, who all bolted Conference USA to join a league with automatic entry into the Bowl Championship Series for the foreseeable future.

The holdovers are Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, West Virginia and Connecticut.

It’s not the most imposing lineup, but the long-term prospects are at least encouraging.

“I think there are a number of schools that could end up stepping up,” South Florida coach Jim Leavitt said. “Do we need that juggernaut? It always helps just of because of the media perception. It certainly doesn’t hurt a conference to have those things happen. But what can also help a conference is to have everybody build up and everybody be competitive.”

South Florida, located in Tampa, gives the league a much-needed presence in the Sunshine State, with its endless stream of talented players.

Cincinnati ended last season with a bowl victory. In fact, Rutgers and USF are the only Big East teams that didn’t play in the postseason last year.

And Louisville walks into the league as the overwhelming favorite to land that coveted BCS bid.

In a poll of media members, the Cardinals (190 points) were picked to finish first, receiving 23 of 24 first-place votes.

Coach Bobby Petrino will hand over his high-powered offense to sophomore quarterback Brian Brohm, who saw ample time playing behind Stefan LeFors last season. The Cardinals were No. 1 in the nation in scoring (49.8 ppg) and total offense (539.0 ypg) in 2004, finished 11-1 and ranked sixth in the final Associated Press poll.

“The expectations from the fans and media have certainly changed,” Petrino said. “The expectations from myself and coaching staff have not changed. That’s what we’ve been trying to expect out of our players. The expectations of our players haven’t changed. Now we just have to go do it.”

Pitt (164), with former Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt now leading his alma mater, was picked second in the conference.

The Panthers went 8-4 and earned the league’s BCS bid under coach Walt Harris last season. But Harris’ contract was up and Pitt didn’t seem eager to give him a new deal, so he jumped to Stanford.

Wannstedt, born in Baldwin, Pa., hasn’t coached in college since he was an assistant at Miami in 1988.

Syracuse has a new coach for the first time in 15 years. Paul Pasqualoni is out and Greg Robinson is in.

Robinson was defensive coordinator at Texas last year, returning to the college game after 14 years in the NFL.

The Orange (114) were picked fourth, behind West Virginia (145) in the preseason rankings. UConn (80) was fifth followed by Rutgers (72), USF (59) and Cincinnati (40).

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