The Big East has voted today to expand in order to get the number of its football-playing members to 10. That votes means that the conference will swell to up to 18 on the basketball side, but hey, football drives the college athletics bus.
If the conference doesn't do something soon to shore up its football side, it could risk losing its BCS automatic bid given how quickly things have gone down hill. There also is the lingering threat of the Big Ten trying to lure away teams in the future, though its debatable whether an expanded Big East would be enough to get teams to spurn Jim Delaney's advances.
So who might the conference look to?
THE LIKELY TARGETS
Villanova, a very good I-AA program, is likely at the top of the list. The Wildcats are already in the Big East in everything else, so they'd just have to spend the money to move up to I-A. There's the catch though: it will cost a lot of money, and no one is sure if the school is willing to pay up.
TCU's name has been rumored for months to be high on the list as well. It's not hard to understand why, as it's a great program in the lucrative Dallas-Fort Worth television market. Adding the Horned Frogs would instantly give the conference a national title contender it hasn't had since West Virginia's flame out at the end of 2007. The catch though is that TCU makes no sense geographically, throwing into question whether the school might join.
The New York Post has a source that tossed out three other names: Houston, UCF, and, ironically, Temple. The Owls used to be in the Big East for football before getting tossed out several years ago for sucking. I guess Al Golden has done enough for the conference to ask them back. Houston is like a TCU Lite, essentially, adding the same geographic problems with less competitive benefit. UCF would jump at the chance to join, as it has been lobbying to ever since the Big East passed it over for USF after the ACC raid. UCF is of questionable value now, but as a giant public school in a talent-rich state, it has potential.
Memphis is perhaps the most overt program about trying to get into the Big East. It hired former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese as a consultant to essentially get the program into the conference. Plus, FedEx (a Memphis-based company) CEO Fred Smith reportedly has offered big money to any BCS conference that takes on the Tigers. While Memphis is a good basketball program, its football program sucks. Taking on Memphis does nothing for the football equation.
I've also, over the years since the ACC raid, seen East Carolina's name thrown out there as a possibility. The Pirates have been pretty good of late, but they don't add much pop. They're the automatically behind four other programs in the state (overall; I know Duke football is terrible), and my completely unscientific guess at the matter puts them roughly on par with Appalachian State in terms of fan interest in the Charlotte area.