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Big East may not be Finished with Westward Expansion or the MWC

In his news conference Wednesday, Big East commissioner John Marinatto touched on further expansion in the Big East Conference. He said the Big East has pondered a football conference with 14 or 16 schools. The league initially wanted to expand to 14 or more teams, but the BE Board said in essence, "let's stabilize and get to a 12-team model first, then we can look at further expansion." With the ACC and SEC going to 14-teams, every indication suggests the Big East will expand in that direction as well and Marinatto said as much.

The expansion plan would help avoid future instability like the realignment events of the past few months. Those raids by the ACC and Big 12 rocked the Big East Conference with the recent defections of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, TCU and West Virginia. That instability is something the Big East administrators will be trying to avoid in the future and could lead to further expansion. The prediction is they might eventually try to get to 14 or even 16 members to add depth that would allow other teams to leave the conference without such devastating consequences.

With the edition of San Diego State, Houston, SMU and Boise State, the Big East is a 10-team conference. Navy is on record saying they are interested in joining, but that won't be until 2014 at the earliest due to scheduling obligations. And even if they join, that leaves the Big East with 11 members, one shy needed for a playoff. BYU is out of the picture, and it looks like the Big East will probably need to replace Air Force in its plans as they are having second thoughts about leaving the MWC. That calls for at least one other Western partner in accord with the articles of agreement with the Western members of the conference. Add to that the reports that Louisville is already balking at the idea of being in the Western Division, and Central Florida prefers to be in the same division as rival South Florida, and you could be looking at two or possibly even three Western teams.

But just getting to 12 teams means picking up another Western team, and Fresno State, Tulsa, and UNLV immediately come to mind while both Temple and Memphis have been mentioned as possible replacements or additions in an Eastern Division. But when pressed on what teams might be considered, Marinatto was mum on any future prospects.

For now with 10 members and perhaps Navy coming in 2014, they don't have to act out of desperation. They can sit back a few months and let Air Force debate itself until spring. See what the BCS may or may not do after the first of the year and use the lull to study the media markets and talk with ESPN and other media outlets. The Big East has invaded the West, and spanned the continent. It has gotten past the "distance factor" and embraced a far-flung conference covering four time zones. Once it sinks in, don't think for a minute they will hesitate to come back for more teams to shore up their Western Division. That horse is out of the barn.

Even Hawaii could find itself on the short-list. After all, they already have their olympic sports in the Big West and could join for football only. Hawaii also has BCS numbers, their own bowl game, media interest, and could very easily be included in the mix for the Western Division. The lure of big TV bucks could easily override the scare of any travel expenses.

If you are laughing at the idea of adding Hawaii to the Big East, you are probably like me and laughed at the idea of the Pac12 adding Colorado, or Boise State joining the Big East when the only thing west of the school was Portland, Oregon and the Pacific Ocean. Its sad events for all concerned and especially bad for a great league like the Mountain West Conference. Like the Big East, they've already had their share of defections with Utah, BYU, TCU, and now Boise State and San Diego State. But from small indications and observations it might not be over just yet.

Is another raid going to happen so soon? Maybe, or maybe not. But the Mountain West might want to brace itself.