Big East eyes expanding football to 12

Updated: October 11, 2011, 1:38 PM ET
By Andrea Adelson and Andy Katz | ESPN.com

The Big East will consider adding six more football-playing schools to get to 12 members in the wake of three departures in the last month, the league said in a statement Monday.

Following a teleconference Monday morning, Big East presidents and chancellors authorized commissioner John Marinatto to engage in formal discussions with institutions it has targeted in expansion, and are considering expanding to 12.

Pitt and Syracuse announced last month they were leaving for the ACC.

TCU formally accepted an invitation from the Big 12 Monday night, leaving the Big East with six football-playing members and in desperate need to rebuild itself for the second time in the last eight years.

UCF is being very strongly considered as the first choice for an invitation to the conference, sources told ESPN.com's Joe Schad Monday. Temple, the sources said, is also being seriously considered.

Navy, Air Force and Army are among several other schools that have been mentioned for potential football-only membership. Memphis and East Carolina have been brought up as candidates as well, and Villanova could move up to the FBS level.

Before anything can be done, the Big East must be absolutely sure it can hold onto its six remaining members. There still is uncertainty throughout the big conferences given that Missouri is considering leaving the Big 12 and the Southeastern Conference has only 13 members.

On Monday, as it did before deciding to add Texas A&M, the SEC's board of presidents and chancellors convened for a regularly scheduled meeting without taking action in regard to further expansion, though "they discussed a wide range of issues dealing with the changing landscape of intercollegiate athletics," the conference said in a statement.

The Big 12's expansion committee is waiting to see if Missouri will recommit to the conference before deciding if it needs to add one more team to return to 10 now that TCU is set to replace Texas A&M; remain 10 strong and not expand further; or add enough teams to get to 12.

The Big 12 has targeted Louisville and West Virginia as candidates in an expanded conference as well as independent BYU. Conference USA members also are viable, as is Boise State. Yet Louisville and West Virginia were on the Big 12's original five-school expansion list when the Aggies announced they were leaving for the SEC. The other three were Arkansas (staying in the SEC), Pitt (leaving the Big East for the ACC) and BYU.

The Big 12 is hopeful that Missouri will have an answer within a week after abstaining on critical votes to add TCU and to approve an equitable sharing of major television rights. Once the Tigers announce their decision, then the Big 12 can decide where it will go with its next move and whether or not this would affect the Big East.

Meanwhile, Air Force and East Carolina have made the most overtures about leaving their current conference. ECU has made it clear that it wants to be in the Big East and leave Conference USA.

Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh called the WAC and Missouri Valley about possibly moving all of its sports except football into one of those conferences and out of the Mountain West in case it went to the Big East in football.

The WAC would take Air Force, especially with the addition of the University of Denver. The MVC isn't currently interested in expanding, but the WCC also is trying to be a player here and would listen if the Falcons wanted a home for its other sports after accepting BYU this season.

Andrea Adelson covers Big East football for ESPN.com. Andy Katz is a senior college basketball writer for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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