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Embattled Big East takes another blow

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Conference Realignment Archives



Pirates having fun executing wins
Embattled Big East takes another blow
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Conference Realignment Archives

Barely two weeks after after announcing an aggressive push to not only replace departing members, but to also expand to a 12-team football alignment, the Big East Conference is losing more ground before it can convince new enlistees to join up.

Groping for a means to salvage its Bowl Championship Series automatic qualifying status in the wake of the announced defections of Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Texas Christian to more stable conferences, the Big East will also lose football flagship West Virginia, multiple news organizations reported on Tuesday.

The Mountaineers have agreed to accept an invitation to replace Missouri in the Big 12 Conference upon the Tigers' anticipated departure for the Southeastern Conference. West Virginia's entry into the Big 12 would keep the league at 10 teams if Mizzou joins the SEC as expected.

The Charleston (WV) Daily Mail reported Tuesday evening that if the Tigers unexpectedly decide to spurn the SEC and stay with the Big 12, WVU will become the league's 11th team. Such a development could be the harbinger of a plan by the Big 12 to expand to 12 teams, implying the potential for another raid on the Big East. Candidates for the final spot would include Louisville and Cincinnati.

Since the Big East announced its plan to regroup and grow, it has instead been unable to soothe its current teams and has struggled to solidify deals with the collection of new additions it has targeted to help reinforce the league's chances of retaining its guaranteed berth in one of the lucrative BCS bowls when the current BCS agreement expires after the 2013 season.

Before the other shoe dropped with news of West Virginia's impending departure, the Big East had staked its future on attracting Navy, Air Force and gridiron juggernaut Boise State as football only members and Central Florida, Houston and Southern Methodist as all-sports members.

If WVU were still in the mix, the addition of all six of those schools — with Boise State being the linchpin in terms of helping prop up the Big East's BCS AQ credibility — would have increased the league's membership to 12, opening the possibility for an inter-divisional championship game.

In light of the tumult in the Big East's ranks, Navy, Air Force and Boise State were already taking a wait-and-see approach before committing to the league's terms. The bombshell news about the exit of West Virginia is likely to magnify their caution and may scare them off completely.

Even more turmoil may be in store for the Big East.

The five football-playing schools currently, if tentatively, still planted in the Big East are Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida. It is a foregone conclusion that Cincinnati and Louisville will put themselves forward as candidates if the Big 12 adds one or more additional teams.

The governor of Connecticut has openly talked about the Huskies being suitable for membership in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Rutgers is thought to be a potential Big Ten target if that league decides to establish a northeastern presence for TV demographics purposes. 

The Kansas City Star reported on Monday that Notre Dame, a member of the Big East in all sports except football and hockey, has been identified by the Big 12 as a "possible future candidate," presumably as an associate member retaining its football independence.

If the Big East elects to forge ahead with its plan to expand its football membership to 12, Army, Brigham Young, East Carolina, Memphis, Temple and Villanova are among the possible candidates identified by various media outlets to fill the gap left by WVU. ECU applied for Big East membership a few weeks ago, but the league's cloudy future in combination with other developments may prompt the Pirates and others among that group of potential target schools to be reluctant to commit to the conference at this time., citing multiple reports, reported Tuesday night that the Big East is now considering a collaboration with Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference to form a 28- to 32-team, nationwide, football super conference. The objective would be to position the super conference for inclusion as an automatic qualifier in the next round of BCS negotiations.

The contemplated super conference would in effect head off a looming showdown over AQ status between the Big East and the 22-team football alliance announced earlier this month by C-USA and the MWC.

PAGE UPDATED 10/26/11 08:19 AM.

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