After approving a plan to expand the football side of the conference nearly two months ago, the Big East appears poised to officially accept the seven new members to accomplish that goal. Possibly by the end of the week. According to Tom Luicci in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, after failing to work out a deal to bring BYU into the fold, the Big East is prepared to go forward with a plan that includes San Diego State as the western travel partner for Boise State and helps create a west division with SMU, Houston, UCF and eventually Navy and Air Force. Luicci reports:
The Big East is on the verge of completing expansion plans that will see Boise State and San Diego State added for football only and SMU, Central Florida and Houston joining as all-sports members, possibly by the end of this week, according to two leading college officials.
The goal is to get those schools added in time for the 2013 season, with Air Force and Navy expected to join later.
League administrators and the five remaining football athletic directors — representing Rutgers, Louisville, South Florida, Cincinnati and Connecticut — met tonight in New York City to review the remaining expansion details.
The officials requested anonymity because the league has not finalized its plans.
One official characterized the process as being "very close," with the other saying that legal paperwork is the only remaining obstacle.
These seven additions would give the Big East the necessary twelve teams to host a championship game. While Luicci states the conference hopes to retain its BCS automatic qualifying status beyond the existing agreement which ends after the 2013 season, it's hard to imagine the other conference commissioners agreeing to such a thing without other restrictions also being added, or at all. The conference would also need to work out exactly which team that is clearly eastern geographically would play in the newly created west division. Luicci's article mentions Louisville, but there have been conflicting reports that Louisville does not want to be in the west division and that perhaps UCF would be made to play in that division. The location of a conference championship game would also need to be settled.
The additions the conference all appear to be slated for 2013, which leaves the Big East in a tough spot regarding the 2012 season. If West Virginia wins its legal battle to play in the Big 12 in 2012, the Big East will be left with just seven teams next season. Obviously, the Big East leadership will argue in court that this is why West Virginia cannot be allowed to leave immediately (in addition to the conference bylaws). If West Virginia is allowed to exit for the 2012 season, it's unclear if the Big East could add any school quickly enough to play next season. This is why the courtroom battle over West Virginia's exit is expected to be so fierce.