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Memphis, Boise State, Louisville: The Poaching continues

So what do we in the Mountain West really know at this point? We know that Memphis was taken from the alliance as a full member of the Big East, and that a settlement has been reached for WVU to leave the Big East, so that it can join the Big XII. And there have been rumors that Britton Banowsky and C-USA have reached out to Temple to gauge interest in joining the formerly 12 team league, which is now down to eight total teams.

What isn't known yet is whether the Boise St. Broncos will jump ship from the MW conference in order to become football only members in the Big East for the 2012 season. What is also still in question, is whether or not Louisville will be extended an invitation to the Big XII conference, bringing the total of teams to 11.

There has been plenty of speculation that the Big XII did not want to expand, and was quite content to stay at 10 teams for the foreseeable future. According to an article by Matt Hayes in the Sporting News, this has been merely a smoke screen:

Eventually, the Big 12 will move beyond 10 teams and add Louisville. A BCS source close to the situation told Sporting News the Big 12 is waiting for West Virginia’s lawsuit with the Big East to be resolved before moving forward. Despite the Big 12’s public comments, it doesn’t want to be the only major conference without a championship game—and doesn’t want to go much longer without the benefit of revenue the game brings.

"That money," a BCS source said, "is too tempting to ignore."

Yet even if the Big 12 stands firm, the damage has been done to the rest of college football. The latest moves have opened the door for all to play—yet drawn a clear line across the landscape.

How reliable is this information? Does the Big East know more than it told Banowski, according to Andy Katz, about membership changes on Feb. 8:

On Wednesday, Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said he's not expecting to lose any more schools to the Big East.

"Based upon my conversations with commissioner (John) Marinatto, the Big East has now completed its future membership plan. If this is true, it is very helpful as we can now move forward with our plans in a more stable national environment," he said. "We hope that the other conferences appreciate the value of stability in intercollegiate athletics and higher education."

If, as the Matt Hayes article suggests, the Big XII does indeed plan to get to enough teams to get to a championship game (12) and Louisville is the planned number 11, who is number 12? The short list is probably Cincinnati, BYU, and AFA. If Cincy is indeed number 12, how does the Big East react? How does that reaction affect the MW? To put it plainly, if Cincy is plucked from the Big East, which MW/C-USA team is the next to go? The Mountain West cannot find a quality replacement for the Air Force academy. Which C-USA teams would be adequate replacements for Cincinnati, Southern Miss and East Carolina? East Carolina has had an application in for several years it seems. Temple is unlikely, because Villanova doesn't want a second Philly team in the conference.

These reductions stand to further weaken the MW and C-USA alliance, or an individual conference, to such an extent that the alliance would have little, if any, power to compete with the larger six BCS conferences. Hayes suggests that this process is what is delineating the 6 BCS conferences from the others. Too much more poaching, and the MW / C-USA will be looking at increasing irrelevance.