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ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

No More Beast in Big East?

May 15, 2003|Chris Dufresne

So what do you think of Miami now?

Less than a decade after Sports Illustrated in a cover story called for the school to drop football, and four months after losing the national title game to Ohio State, the Miami Hurricanes, heretofore known in campus corridors as "A Mighty Wind," are about to redraw the map of major intercollegiate sports.

Go reconfigure.

This land-locked ripple effect could stretch from Coral Cables to Contra Costa and perhaps even make the Pacific 10 Conference rethink its staunchly anti-expansion position.

It appears that Miami will bolt the Big East Conference for the Atlantic Coast Conference and potentially uproot many of the toe-ball tulips.

This week, ACC presidents voted, 7-2, to expand the conference from nine to 12 teams.

The deal maker is Miami, which would turn in its Big East card and take two teams with it -- probably Boston College and Syracuse.

That would leave the ACC as a 12-school super conference, the Big East in football ruins and dozens of schools trying to find their places in a brave new world of football and basketball.

If the Big East has to shut its football shop, three of the nation's top five remaining major conferences would boast 12-school, two-division formats.

The Big Ten, with 11 teams, might then add Big East leftover Pittsburgh, which is pretty much spit-and-polished after vastly upgrading its football and basketball programs. The Big Ten offered Notre Dame the No. 12 slot spot in 1999 but the Irish declined and remain, for now, willing to go it alone.

One of the benefits of a 12-school format in football is being able to have two six-school divisions and staging a conference title game each year.

The game can mean as much as $12 million in revenue to a conference.

After the current BCS contract expires after the 2005 season, it is conceivable that, of the major football conferences, only the Pac-10 will be left with a 10-team format.

The question then becomes whether the Pac-10 can compete financially without expansion.

In the short term, the Pac-10 appears dead set against adding membership.

"We will most certainly review what happens," Pac-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen said Wednesday, "but I do not believe we are going to change that position."

Oregon Athletic Director Bill Moos agreed.

"I don't think there's any reason to panic," Moos said. "Personally, I am opposed to any expansion."

The Pac-10 has in the past made overtures to Colorado and Texas, but in recent years has made isolation its ideology.

Moos said you have to look at the downside of getting bigger.

"At the end of the day, you're dividing the pie 12 ways instead of 10," Moos said.

Moos acknowledged a Miami-to-the-ACC might one day make the Pac-10 rethink the expansion issue, but he says that day isn't tomorrow.

"The Pac-10 continues to be very picky as to who we would consider," he said, not willing to comment on specific schools.

And, as Hansen added, "Even if we wanted to expand, where would we look?"

It is a fact that San Diego State has long courted Pac-10 membership, but the Aztecs would appear a real longshot. A school such as Utah, currently of the Mountain West, more closely fits the Pac-10 profile, but the truth is there are few viable candidates unless Texas or Colorado reconsiders its leather tethers with the Big 12.

And, so you know, Texas isn't coming without Texas A&M.

The most viable additions in a newly formed Pac-12 would probably be Utah and Colorado, but this issue is not on the front burner.

To be clear, Miami has not signed off in this deal yet and, in truth, has not officially been invited to join the ACC.

But it could all happen as soon as next week.

Miami has vowed to give the Big East a chance to make a counterproposal at conference meetings this week in Florida.

"I am anxious to meet with our conference members in Florida and am prepared to do whatever it takes to preserve the 24-year history of the Big East Conference," Big East Commissioner Michael Tranghese said in a statement. "This is a conference that is worth preserving and we should all look forward to the challenge."

Some are suggesting the Big East meetings will be a gathering for last rights.

Tranghese's best go-for-broke option might be trying to steal Florida State away from the ACC and then cobble together a couple other schools (Louisville?) to make the Big East a 12-school power the ACC wants to be.

And wouldn't that be audacious.

In the big picture, consolidating either the Big East or the ACC is probably not a bad business idea.

Of the top six conferences in the bowl championship series, the Big East and ACC probably ranked Nos. 5 and 6. The conferences were really traditional basketball conferences with football interests. The Big East was more confederation than a conference in football, a patch-quilt largely held together by Miami's membership.

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