AQ opportunity knocks for SMU

DALLAS -- SMU's ticket to the big time -- BCS automatic-qualifying status -- is on its way via the latest round of conference musical chairs. The Mustangs, along with four other schools, are expected to be officially invited to join the Big East in near future.

The proposed move has been met with excitement at SMU, which has made no secret of its desires to move into an AQ conference. Despite the Big East's seemingly shaky standing with Syracuse, Pittsburgh and TCU defecting, the league remains a step up in stature from Conference USA.

"We will continue our efforts to achieve the university's goal of competing at the highest level of college athletics and are evaluating opportunities in the conference landscape," Mustangs athletic director Steve Orsini said in a statement released during halftime of Saturday's SMU-Central Florida game.

The Big East's invitation to the five schools is divided with SMU, UCF and Houston potentially joining in all sports. Air Force and Boise State would be football-only members.

Orsini believes the commitment made to athletics, namely the coaches and facilities for football and men's basketball, has positioned SMU to take a step up. Orsini held talks with the Big 12, while continuing to monitor the ongoing conference realignment.

SMU's chief rival, TCU, had agreed to join the Big East for next year with the same AQ goal in mind before snagging an invite to the Big 12 with Texas A&M's departure. The Big East's losses forced the league to become aggressive in reconstituting its football membership, opening a door for SMU.