- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Big East has three new coaches facing three drastically different challenges.

At Cincinnati, Butch Jones is again following Brian Kelly and trying to keep a good thing going. Skip Holtz has the task of mending a South Florida team fractured by scandal. As for Charlie Strong, his job is to rebuild Louisville, a program that has plummeted since peaking four years ago.

How each new leader responds could have a major effect on the league title race, because while none of these teams are considered favorites, the Big East has proved to be a conference where teams can quickly rise and fall.

Cincinnati can attest to that. The Bearcats are coming off consecutive Big East titles and BCS appearances, unprecedented success for a program that in the past had considered a minor bowl bid a major accomplishment.

It was no surprise that Kelly outgrew the Bearcats and became the coach at Notre Dame after the 2009 regular season. And it wasn’t much of a surprise that Cincinnati went back to Central Michigan, where they found Kelly, to find their next coach.

Jones took over for Kelly, his friend and former boss, at Central Michigan and the Chippewas never missed a beat, winning 27 games in three seasons.

Now again his job is to build upon the foundation laid by Kelly.

“There’s different pressure, but also as a coach you want the expectations that surround your football program,” Jones said.

Jones runs a similar spread offense so expect the Big East’s highest scoring team in ‘09 to remain a headache for the league’s defensive coordinators, especially with the return of quarterback Zach Collaros. The junior was a revelation filling in when Tony Pike was injured last season, passing for 1,434 yards and running for 344 more.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if Cincinnati challenges league favorite Pittsburgh for a third straight Big East crown.

While Cincinnati’s coaching transition was seamless, South Florida’s left some scars.

The Bulls dismissed Jim Leavitt, the only coach in the program’s 13-year history, after he was accused of mistreating a player and then not being truthful with the university when it investigated the incident.

The Bulls hired Holtz away from East Carolina, where he had won two Conference USA titles, to replace Leavitt. What the son of college football Hall of Famer Lou Holtz found was a team divided.

“We walked into a program where there was a lot of adversity,” Holtz said. “There were a lot of players that were hurt. There was a lot of healing that needed to take place.”

South Florida has been a perennial contender in the Big East, with flashy nonconference victories against Auburn and Florida State to its credit in recent seasons, but the Bulls have yet to win a Big East title.

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