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Big East expansion pending?

From staff and electronic reports
All rights reserved.

In the wake of Texas Christian's apparent about-face in its commitment to membership in the fractured Big East Conference, Pete Thamel of The New York Times reported Thursday night that Big East school presidents would convene a telephone conference Friday morning to discuss expansion.

Citing people with knowledge of the looming teleconference, the online report posed the possibility that invitations to new members would be a topic of conversation and that decisions could be made regarding new members.

Separately, The Cincinnati Enquirer's Bill Koch reported in a blog posting on the paper's Web site Thursday night that "Big East officials are moving quickly to try to shore up its remaining six football schools with indications that the league will invite East Carolina and Central Florida to join the league, perhaps as early as Friday."

TCU, which currently competes in the Mountain West Conference, had accepted an invitation to join the Big East and was expected to commence play in the league beginning with the 2012-13 academic year. But, according to widespread reports on Thursday, the Horned Frogs are backtracking before they arrive and will accept an invitation to join the more geographically-compatible Big 12 Conference.

The Big 12 lost Nebraska to the Big Ten and Colorado to the Pac-10 last year and has been in a frantic reconsolidation and expansion mode since it recently learned Texas A&M would also be departing. The Aggies have accepted future membership in the Southeastern Conference.

TCU's reversal of course is a big blow to the Big East, which has been reeling from the announced defections last month of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Now, it will be the Big East's turn to try to reconstitute its membership and perhaps expand beyond its previous composition in terms of number of members. The Big East's six remaining football-playing members are Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida and West Virginia.

Eight other Big East members — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova — do not compete in the league in football.

With football-driven conference realignment forces still churning on multiple fronts, the Big East and, to some extent, the Big 12 and ACC are not immune to suffering the effects of further shuffling of schools between leagues.

PAGE UPDATED 10/07/11 07:15 AM.

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