A point that is ofter mistaken or overlooked is the Big East football footpritn. The Big East football footprint has already shifted from the northeast to the Ohio Valley.
I disagree with folks who say Louisiville and Cincinnati are out of the Big East foot print. Maybe for basketball this may be true, however, Big East football is a different situation with a different footprint.
^Yes, technically half of the conference will be on or near the Ohio River. I am not totally convinced that the University of Pittsburgh, when voting on any new members would vote along with Louisville, Cincinnati, or a block along the Ohio River, just because they are on or at the very beginning of the Ohio River.
Pittsburgh is a very traditional and prestigious school that has a long history. If you are getting at a Ohio Valley vs. Northeast voting block on members, Pitt may view things more the way Syracuse, UConn, and Rutgers do. If that's the case, they may be more inclined to vote more favorably for a true "Northeast Footprint" team, than a team from another part of the country. If this is the case, which I think it may very well be, West Virginia would be the deciding vote, if its just a simple majority that is needed. If its more, then the Big East members may have a tough time on agreeing on who should be new members of the conference. Its also hard to say how USF would vote, as really it doesn't matter that much for geographical purposes except for UCF, which they also may be against for intruding on their market. But then they may be for them as they would be a travel partner.
So the real Ohio Valley core of what you're describing may be only U Louisville and U Cincy, and its hard to say how WVU may vote. They are a state flagship school and a land grant U and may be favorable if another state flagship land grant join themselves as well as Rutgers and UConn.
To show you about how the Big East is percieved among the other 5 BCS Conferences, take a look at the different editions of the Athon's pre-season college football annuals.
The ACC editions:
The Big 10 editions:
The Big 12 editions:
The Pac-10 editions:
The Southeastern Conference editions:
Now those are the only conferences with the very title of their conferences in the editions. They do two other regional editions, one called...
The "Eastern" edition, in which there is only 2 different versions. One with a UConn and BC player, and the other with a Syracuse player:
Notice that the edition is not called the "Big East" edition? Maybe that's because Boston College is in its last season in the Big East.
They also have a "Western" edition, which I can't get the direct link to because it can be found on their website, but if you scroll down on this www.sportsillustrated.com
page that is doing a preview of all 117 teams and is linking Athon's editions from the various team previews, you will see from this Utah preview page that there are four players on the "Western" edition cover, which include Utah and Colorado State from the MWC, and Fresno State and Boise State from the WAC.
So there are editions that are for each of the BCS conferences in name, while the Big East is included in an edition called "Eastern" and not Big East and that's the same as the MWC and the WAC being in the "Western" Edition.
Now to further this, there isn't any "Conference USA" editions, and when you click on a Non-BCS team from the www.sportsillustrated.com
117 team preview page:
Like say in the CUSA, or the Sun Belt, or the MAC, you do not get an edition from anyone of those conferences. In addition, you do not get the "Eastern" edition if you click on Louisville, Cincinnnati, or USF. For all 3 of those schools you get a "Southeastern" school edition, and the Kentucky version of the "Southeastern" school edition includes the Louisville QB on it and that is the only reference to the CUSA on a cover of this magazine:
My point with all these posts and links is this. The Northeast, as pointed out by many on this board has largest individual metro market in the US in NYC, and the Big East conference region is only second to the Big 10 in total population with ~55 million people, tied with the ACC.
If the Big East go for additional members down an Ohio Valley/Mississippi Valley or south of the Ohio River anywhere route (except West Virginia) then they are becoming a "Shadow" conference geographically to the Southeast Conference. If they go north of the Ohio River, but way west of the Appallachian Mtns (except for Norte Dame, if they would like to join), they are becoming a "shadow" conference underneath the Big 10, just like the MAC (notice if you click a MAC school from that http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/ncaa/specials/preview/2004/teams/index.html
you get an Athon's Magazine that is a "Big 10" edition. People will not be seeing the Big East conference out in front of its geographic region unless it remains a "Northeast" footprint conference. That is the only place where it can be geographically at the top, without being a "shadow" to another conference. This may be important considering that the Mountain West has this for the intermountain west (except for Arizona, and parially in Colorado, and IS a "shadow" in California and Texas).
My question is why abandon "The Largest Market" for teams that will result in a "shadowing" of another predominant conference?
I think the Northeast Footprint is very important to embrace in all this, and is the most advantageous for the conference to consider when expanding. Why would people in New Brunswick or Storrs or even Syracuse feel about being in a conference where the majority of the rivalries would be in the Ohio Valley? How do they relate to those schools?
That's why I say a very strategic path for the conference is to look at 1-AA programs in the "Northeast" Footprint for possible expansion in the long-term of the conference for possible candidates for expansion. This is coupled with looking at all possible candidates including the Ohio Valley, the Cape Hattaras shore, the Alabama or Tennessee or whaterver river valley, the Miami River in Ohio or whereever. But I think an emphasis should be on the Northeast, because that is a large market that has a lot of potential and the only region where the Big East would not be in the shadow.