It was almost laughable to some that Pittsburgh earned a BCS berth out of a middling Big East last season, while Utah managed to barely squeeze into the BCS picture and Boise State and Louisville were left on the outside. Pittsburgh, after all, lost to Syracuse, U-Conn. and Nebraska during the regular season. Worse yet, Louisville and Boise gathered in Memphis on New Year's Eve to grieve, calling the meeting the Liberty Bowl.

The conference was not anticipated to be much during a transition season after stalwarts Miami and Virginia Tech left for the ACC, and the diminished expectations were realized.

The Big East now gladly welcomes Louisville, which arrives with Cincinnati and South Florida, giving the league eight teams but only three that are truly bowl-worthy. The conference champion still will earn an automatic BCS berth, which this year should be warranted because Louisville has been ranked among the nation's top 10 teams in some publications.

The depth of the conference remains suspect at best. The league's four bottom teams -- U-Conn., South Florida, Rutgers and Cincinnati -- all were rated no better than 82nd nationally by one magazine.

"The future success of our league is not going to be dependent on one program," Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese said. "For us to really be successful, we have to have a number of programs be successful over a period of time."

That will not occur this season, with a school such as Rutgers still vying for its first bowl game since 1978.

Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino, right, likely has the best team in the Big East upon entry.