Potential new Big East members

September, 21, 2011
9/21/11
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The Big East finds itself looking for new members. So where will it turn? The same old names have popped up once again, names that were widely discussed after TCU agreed to join the conference last year. Only this time, the Big East has got to add teams to make up for the loss of Pitt and Syracuse -- exiting in June 2014.

At least two must be added to make up for the recent defections. What remains unclear is whether the Big East will add five to get to a conference championship game in football. Here is a quick look at the candidates. Now, let us all remember this is dependent on the Big East hanging onto all seven of its football-playing schools. That is no sure thing.

In this climate, who knows what can happen.

Air Force. The Falcons would deliver TV markets in Denver, and they also have proved they can compete in a conference, having gone to four straight bowl games under coach Troy Calhoun. They also have a familiarity with TCU, a conference partner in the Mountain West.

Army. The Black Knights would be a football-only candidate. They add a broad appeal as a national school, and plenty of tradition. They are in the Northeast footprint as well, and would be a valuable addition to a media rights deal. But this is a program that has been in a conference before with shaky results. The program is turning a corner now under coach Rich Ellerson, who took Army to a bowl game last season for the first time since 1996.

East Carolina. The Pirates have made it no secret that they want to be members of an AQ conference and fast. They have a website dedicated to the quest called "Undaunted" in which it extols all its virtues. The Pirates have made five straight bowl appearances, won league titles in 2008 and 2009 under then-coach Skip Holtz, and have beaten 16 AQ opponents since 1997. They would also deliver North Carolina TV markets, and have one of the most passionate fan bases among all non-AQ schools.

Houston.The TV market is No. 10 in the nation, so that is a huge plus, and the program has been solid on the field. They would also be a travel partner for TCU, should the Horned Frogs remain in the Big East.

Memphis. The football program is down-and-out now, but has had past success, having gone to five straight bowl games from 2003-08. The TV market is not as big here, but this addition could help appease some basketball members who may have concerns after losing Syracuse and Pitt.

Navy. The Midshipmen have been a rock-solid independent, and have proved they can compete against anybody. They are a national brand and travel extremely well. The TV footprint is solid, too. Football-only member consideration here. Athletic director Chet Gladchuk had some interesting points in this interview.

Temple. The Owls used to be a part of the Big East until they were voted out because they simply were not competitive in the league. But the program has been rejuvenated and is coming off back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the 1970s. They would deliver the Philadelphia market, but would the Big East go back to a team it already had in the fold?

UCF. The Knights are an up-and-coming program that might be short on history and tradition but would add another Florida market. The facilities have been expanded and they have an on-campus stadium. UCF was ranked for the first time in school history last year. There are a few questions here: Would USF be in favor of adding UCF? Fan support needs to be better.

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