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Conference Realignment: Rumors of a Big East Mass Exodus

I am reluctant to write about things behind another site's paywall, but, since the contents of that site's report have become public via other channels, it's safe to discuss without damaging that site's ability to provide premium content to its members. Bearcat Lair, the Cincinnati site in the 247 Sports network of sites, is reporting that Louisville, West Virginia, Cincinnati, and TCU are working to become members of the Big XII. The site reports that BYU is in negotiatons to join the Big XII.The gist of the report was tweeted publicly by David Locke. Locke is the host of a sports radio show and is the play by play announcer for the Utah Jazz.

Adding those five schools would give the Big XII 14 members, assuming that Missouri decides to stay. It would also be the death knell to the Big East as a football conference. If the predicted exodus occurs, the Big East would be left with Connecticut, Rutgers, and South Florida as football playing members. With the loss of West Virginia and TCU, the Big East could add any number of teams and it still would no longer qualify as a BCS automatic qualifying conference. Even if the Big East were to go beyond the current expansion strictures and add teams in states with current members such as Central Florida, it's difficult to see how it could survive as a football conference. 

Should these rumors of an exodus be true and the Big East fold as a football conference, it is unclear what would become of the three football playing members left behind. South Florida does not appear to be under consideration by any of the existing AQ conferences. Connecticut and Rutgers have both publicly expressed, to one degree or another, a desire to be in the ACC but expanding beyond 14 members doesn't appear to be on the ACC's agenda unless it can lure a very big fish. Like Notre Dame. The Big East's best option might be to add the service academies as football playing members, Houston, East Carolina, Central Florida, Temple, and invite Villanova to move up to FBS football and hope that adding teams with growth potential will allow it to regain its AQ status down the road.

Sunday's meeting of Big East presidents might be an exit interview now.