Big East, C-USA, MWC exploring options

Updated: October 25, 2011, 10:45 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

The Mountain West Conference, Conference USA and the Big East Conference are weighing creating a nationwide football superconference of 28 to 32 teams, with the goal of gaining an automatic Bowl Championship Series qualifying bid, according to multiple reports.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that commissioners of the three conferences were planning to meet on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of forming a single football league.

But later Tuesday, Big East spokesman John Paquette told ESPN.com's Joe Schad the conference does not have a scheduled in-person meeting with those conferences.

The Mountain West and Conference USA have already agreed to a football association, starting in 2012 or 2013.

"We would figure out some way -- four divisions of seven teams each, a playoff and then a conference championship game -- to come up with the (automatic qualifier)," UNLV athletic director Jim Livengood said Tuesday of the plan, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

"Craig and Britton are going into this meeting in New York with one thing in mind, to make this happen with the Big East," Livengood said, according to the report.

The Big East's survival as a BCS qualifying football conference hangs in the balance, as it appeared the conference would lose West Virginia to the Big 12 as soon as Tuesday. The league has already lost Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC, and TCU has decided to join the Big 12, abandoning its plans to join the Big East for football starting next season.

But the source said that as long as the Big East holds onto Louisville, then it will remains a viable conference and will be able to add members.

Conference USA understands that members Houston, Southern Methodist and Central Florida are willing to go to the Big East, according to the source.

The Big East's plan was to send conditional invitations to Houston, Southern Methodist and Central Florida for all sports, and to Air Force and Boise State of the Mountain West for football only, a source said. The conference also plans to add Navy as a football-only member, though that has not been made public by the league.

But Boise State remains the key to the Big East's plans for football expansion, the source said.

And even that might not be enough for the Big East to retain its Bowl Championship Series automatic bid.

"Any of this conference repositioning, whether its Mountain West, Conference USA or the Big East, can't guarantee that a BCS automatic (bid) comes with it," said Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson.

Boise State has to decide if it wants to join the Big East for access to a BCS automatic qualifying bid, despite having already gained BCS bids on its own.

Benson said that he could foresee a new BCS model in 2014 and beyond in which the BCS would take the top 10 schools in its standings, regardless of conference affiliation.

If Boise State leaves the Mountain West for the Big East in football, then it must find a home for its other sports. But there could be a problem: If the WAC agreed to take Boise State in other sports then it might be opening up itself to lose Utah State to the Mountain West.

Boise State's other option is to return to the Big Sky for non-football sports.

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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