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Big East ponders next move

From staff and electronic reports
All rights reserved.

Friday came and went without an announcement from the Big East Conference on a plan of action to reinforce its ranks in the wake of the defections of Texas Christian, Pittsburgh and Syracuse to other leagues.

The Associated Press reported that a teleconference involving Big East Commissioner John Marinatto and school presidents and athletic directors was held Friday to discuss expansion but produced no decisions.

Citing anonymous sources, the AP account indicated that no invitations to prospective new members were imminent because the league wanted more information about the schools being considered.

Potential candidates mentioned in the dispatch included Air Force, Navy, East Carolina, Central Florida, Memphis and Temple.

A Cincinnati Enquirer blog posting Friday afternoon indicated that Central Florida and East Carolina are the most likely candidates for membership. It added that a decision probably won’t be made until early next week.

Air Force and Navy, which have been courted by the Big East as football-only members, have reportedly declined to actively consider joining unless and until the league stabilizes its membership roster.

With Connecticut's governor publicly lobbying for the Huskies to be considered by the Atlantic Coast Conference and with speculation percolating in the media of a potential raid on the Big East by the Big 12 Conference, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the Big East will have to put its designs for Air Force and Navy on the backburner while it tries to shore up its basic structure.

The league's next steps are likely to include seeking new commitments from its current members and sorting out its options with East Carolina, Central Florida and perhaps other upwardly-mobile schools that covet the league's lucrative revenue streams and the automatic qualification for a Bowl Championship Series bowl bid that goes with a Big East football championship.

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.

PAGE UPDATED 10/08/11 02:33 AM.

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