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Monday, October 24, 2011
Updated: October 25, 1:31 PM ET
Houston expected to OK move

ESPN.com news services

University of Houston regents will meet Thursday and are expected to give the chancellor authority to move the Cougars out of Conference USA to a new league, possibly the Big East.

The regents on Monday scheduled the special meeting to give university chancellor and president Renu Khator the authority to "execute a contract for athletic conference affiliation and to negotiate and provide notice of contract cancellation." The item does not specify a conference destination.

The meeting "is to give our board members an update on conference realignment as it pertains to the University of Houston. There is a great deal of speculation out there and this meeting will allow us to provide our leadership with up-to-date information," Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades said.

At an appearance on Tuesday, Rhoades offered no timeline for the school to decide its future affiliation.

Rhoades said Houston is "in a good position" and will "always seek new opportunity." But he said his school has no control over the timeline for a potential move, adding that Houston will remain "cautious and careful" as the process moves along.

Big East associate commissioner John Paquette said the league "will continue our stance of not talking about individual institutions throughout the conference realignment process."

The Big East, which has an automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series for its football champion, has been scouring the landscape for new members after Syracuse and Pittsburgh accepted invitations to the Atlantic Coast Conference and TCU, which was scheduled to join in 2012, defected to the Big 12.

A source told ESPN.com's Andy Katz recently that 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 for football only.

The conference's plan to expand to 12 members also includes Navy as a football-only member, though that has not been made public by the league.

The Big East currently has six football members committed to the conference beyond this season and eight schools that do not compete in the league in football, including Notre Dame.

Texas state Rep. Garnett Coleman, whose district includes the Houston campus, said getting the Cougars into a BCS conference would be a great step for an old Southwest Conference power that got left out of the Big 12 when the SWC fell apart in the early 1990s.

"It puts (the athletes) on a national stage," Coleman said.

Coleman said if Houston were to move conferences, he expects a deal could be announced within a few days after the regents' meeting Thursday.

With TCU pulling out of the Big East, getting Houston would allow the league to tap into the lucrative Texas media market and one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz was used in this report.