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Big East Expansion - Boise State, SMU, Houston, and UCF Could Join By Friday

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According to a report from Brett McMurphy (and don't all reports about the Big East start this way?), Boise State, Houston, SMU, and UCF could all accept invitations to join the Big East on Friday. Boise State would be a football only member while the other three schools would join as all-sports members. McMurphy writes:

Nationally ranked Boise State and Houston along with SMU and UCF could be added as Big East members by Friday, college football industry sources told

On Tuesday in Philadelphia, the Big East’s presidents and chancellors authorized league commissioner John Marinatto to issue invitations to those schools – along with Navy and Air Force – sources said.

However, Boise State, Houston, SMU and UCF prefer to be announced as league members together and must wait until Boise State’s board meeting on Thursday. There have been no "official invitations" extended to the schools, but Marinatto has been in constant contact and spoke to representatives of all six schools after Tuesday's meeting.

Boise State would join as a football-only member, while UCF, SMU and Houston would join as all-sport members beginning either next season or in 2013.

So that would make four of the needed seven Big East teams to get to 12 and allow for a championship game. What about the service academies Navy and Air Force? McMurphy reports:

Navy has told the other schools on Tuesday's call it "is definitely in" and Air Force is expected to join once Navy commits to the Big East, a source said.

Signing the two service academies along with Houston and Boise State will go a long way from a rankings and political perspective toward allowing the Big East to possibly maintain its BBCS automatic qualifying status beyond 2013 as some feel that the BCS would not want to exclude the service academies after allowing them in for up to two years.

Adding those six teams would give the Big East four "western" teams (Boise State, Houston, SMU, and Air Force) and would leave it in need of one more team to get to twelve. The most likely candidates for the final spot appear to be Temple and BYU. BYU would bring broad national appeal and another western team that would minimize travel for those teams. The challenge with BYU is folding its television contract in with the new television deal that will be negotiated next year. Temple faces opposition from current Big East member Villanova, which does not want another school from the same city playing Big East football, something it would like the opportunity to do. Temple is in a large television market and just so happens to be located in the home of Comcast, a possible television partner for the Big East going forward. 

One further question for the Big East will be whether or not to play nine conference games, something the Big Ten is moving to and the PAC 12 does now. Playing nine conference games would greatly increase the amount of television "inventory", which is vital in the upcoming television negotiations. The more games the conference has to offer, the more that it will be able to sell a network. Playing nine conference games would also give every school a chance to do some combination of play Boise State, play in Texas, or play in Florida. Something every Big East school would like to do. 

The final question will be where to have a conference championship game. The SEC has been successful playing a conference title game in one location, but the SEC is unique in having a major city seated rather central to all of the conference's members. The game has been so successful in Atlanta that the location has become synonymous with the game itself. The ACC, meanwhile, has moved the game around to several locations, including Florida, and only when it settled in Charlotte last year did it seem to finally find a good home. The PAC 12 will mimic what Conference USA does and play the conference championship game at the stadium of the higher ranked team. Commissioner John Marinatto has previously stated he would like to see a title game played in New York City, but, with members stretching from Connecticut to Boise, that seems unreasonable. A championship game on the home field of the higher ranked team might work best, at least at first.