After a conference call with school presidents and athletic directors, the Big East announced on Monday that it was considering a 12 school football model.
With the impending departure of TCU to the Big 12, the Big East is currently left with six football playing schools -- meaning it'd need to double its amount in order to get to 12 schools. And with Missouri possibly heading to the SEC and Big East programs, Louisville and West Virginia, considered as top targets for the Big 12 -- the Big East certainly has its work cut out.
One consideration that the Big East needs to take into account is whether the conference will pursue schools as full-fledged members, football-only members, or some combination of the two options. For instance, some have speculated that the conference is interested in adding Air Force, Army, and Navy as football-only schools, but adding Temple and Central Florida as full members.
The Big East is in a particularly precarious situation right now and needs to add quality football programs to help the conference maintain its BCS automatic qualifier status. One popular rumor, according to The Boston Globe, is that the conference could target Boise State for membership, but some feel that the school is too far away from the rest of the conference members.
The top options are likely a hodgepodge of the service academies, Conference USA schools, and other schools scattered throughout the country. Central Florida and East Carolina are both eager to join the conference, while SMU and Houston would both offer good forays into Texas football.
The conference has to be careful to bring on the right fit of schools -- both football only and full-fledged members. For instance if Air Force and Boise State are football only, then the travel issues really aren't that big of a deal. But if those schools are brought on for all sports, traveling out to Idaho and Colorado from the East Coast for women's softball could prove to be a financial and time disaster.
The main key for the conference's survivability and ultimate viability as a legitimate football conference is holding onto Louisville and West Virginia. West Virginia is easily the best football program left in the Big East and represent the only football program remaining that is consistently in the Top 25.
Losing West Virginia to the Big 12, as some have speculated would happen if Missouri leaves for the SEC, would be a death blow to the Big East. The conference could certainly replace West Virginia, but no school could offer as much as the Mountaineers currently do.
Expect the Big East to wait on what Missouri decides to do -- as will the Big 12 and SEC -- but expect the conference to move fairly quickly to identify and approach quality candidates for admission. Air Force athletic director Hans Mueh told the Denver Post his school had high interest in joining the Big East and that it was moving fast.
Air Force could be the first school to join a reformed Big East -- likely along with Army and Navy -- setting off another chain of conference realignment moves. It won't happen until after Missouri decides what it wants to do, but it could happen extremely shortly afterwards.
Want to reach this writer? You can email John Talty at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @jtalty.