Musical leagues not over
By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer
Published September 26, 2003
TAMPA - After getting blindsided by the ACC, the Big East was up front with Conference USA this summer, saying it might try to lure a few C-USA teams.
Thanks for the warning. Widespread reports this week said the Big East will heist four of Conference USA's elite basketball programs: Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette and DePaul. Cincinnati and Louisville also would be part of an eight-team football league while the four newcomers would give the Big East 16 basketball schools.
C-USA is preparing its response and appears ready to add WAC schools.
"We've developed a wide variety of contingency plans," C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said. "There are several schools interested in this conference."
According to the Dallas Morning News, C-USA and SMU are talking, and C-USA also could entice Rice and Tulsa from the WAC.
"Every scenario we might be interested in would have a geographic proximity, where fans can get to games," SMU athletic director Larry Copeland told the Morning News.
Where is USF in all of this? The Bulls are considered a possibility to join the Big East as part of a second wave of new football members (after Cincinnati and Louisville), allowing the league to maintain a presence in football-fertile Florida.
But the NCAA's preliminary ruling denying the ACC's request to allow leagues with 10 or more teams to hold a football title game could hurt USF. One reason the Big East would expand to 10 football teams would be to hold a lucrative conference title game.
Another consideration: With the anticipated swelling to 16 basketball schools, the Big East might not have room for USF basketball. Ultimately, the Bulls could end up choosing between full membership in a diminished C-USA and joining the Big East in a football-only capacity (perhaps along with UCF). USF would attain the coveted BCS status but have to find a new league affiliation for its other sports.
The next big dates in the saga: Oct. 6-7, when the C-USA athletic directors meet in Chicago; Oct. 13-14, when the C-USA presidents meet in Chicago; Nov. 4, when the Big East presidents meet and are expected to extend formal invitations; and Dec. 8-10, when C-USA ADs meet again.