Top candidates for Big East expansion

November, 2, 2010
11/02/10
6:48
PM ET
There is still much to sort out about Tuesday's announcement that the Big East is moving from eight to 10 teams. One conference insider told me that the league's list of possible contenders is "in alphabetical order" right now, meaning that there's no clear No. 1 target.

But the conference has been researching teams for months now and has a pretty good idea of who would be a good fit and who wouldn't. The pressure is on Villanova to make a decision whether to move up and join the league in football. The league also has to decide whether it asks schools to join as football-only members and risks getting turned down because of that, or whether it wants to add to the already-unwieldy 16-team structure in basketball. Growing to 17 or 18 teams is not something the basketball-only schools are particularly excited about.

Here is my ranking of teams that should be considered to fill spots No. 9 and 10 in the Big East football universe:

1. TCU: The Horned Frogs are currently No. 3 in the BCS standings, a year after playing in the Fiesta Bowl. Is there any doubt they could come in and win the league title right away? They also bring a great market in Fort Worth/Dallas and would love the chance to earn an automatic BCS bid. But TCU doesn't offer much of anything in basketball and would have to find a home for its other sports if the Big East asked it to join as a football-only member. And Texas is not exactly in the East.

2. Central Florida: Geographically, UCF makes the most sense, giving the league another foothold in Florida and a natural rival for USF. The school has a huge student body and brand new facilities with a potential for quick growth. The downside is extra competition for recruits out of Florida for other Big East teams.

3. Villanova: The Wildcats solve a lot of practical headaches, as the Big East wouldn't have to add another school for other sports. They also have the Philadelphia market and offer another rival for the Northeast schools. But it would be at least two years before Villanova could qualify for FBS status, and even with a quick rise a la South Florida or UConn, it will take another couple years after that before the team is truly competitive for a BCS bid. This seems like an option the Big East can keep in its back pocket while pursuing other ideas.

4. Houston: Pros: The Cougars have some history of success and an excellent young coach in Kevin Sumlin. Plus, it's another huge market and a possible rival for TCU. There are plans for a new stadium. Con: Houston is overshadowed in its own city by Texas and Texas A&M.

5. Temple: If Villanova doesn't work out, the Big East can turn back to this former member for the Philadelphia market. Unlike 'Nova, Temple actually has a place to play and has turned itself into a solid program, even beating UConn this year. Temple also has a home for its other sports (Atlantic 10). The worry is whether the program can sustain its momentum if hotshot coach Al Golden moves on.

Others: East Carolina, Memphis, Marshall, Navy. All have major warts -- with ECU, it's location; Memphis, lack of facilities and success -- and the Big East would be advised to exhaust the first five possibilities before turning here.

With all that in mind, what are your top options for the two new members? Use this list as your guide, because Notre Dame isn't coming on board, Boston College isn't returning and no other current BCS conference school is abandoning ship for the Big East. Send me your suggestions here and we'll discuss.

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