MIAMI -- The Big East Conference is essentially three votes away from expanding, and commissioner Mike Tranghese said the University of Miami is the "focal point" of most expansion discussions.
The three major football schools in the nine-team conference -- Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Boston College -- already have endorsed expansion. The approval of only three other schools is needed to expand, and the conference could get those votes as soon as next week.
"I would say the status quo is unacceptable," Villanova athletic director Ted Aceto said yesterday. "The Big East will not remain the way it is. We'll probably have to go to some kind of expansion."
A decision could come as soon as Tuesday, when the schools meet for their annual fall convention. The athletic directors from all nine schools have convened weekly (and privately) throughout September. Tranghese has been talking with Miami athletic director Sam Jankovich frequently.
Under the most prominently discussed scenario, the Big East would add four football schools (sources say they are Miami, West Virginia, Temple and Rutgers) and then break into a seven-team football conference. Each added school would play within the Big East in all sports -- all of them gaining especially from the conference's basketball riches -- and the conference itself would benefit by keeping its Big Three football schools from jumping to a football-strong conference.
"We would like to do whatever it takes to keep the football schools," Seton Hall athletic director Larry Keating said.
Miami also is being courted by the Southeastern Conference, which sent commissioner Roy Kramer to the Miami campus earlier this week. Jankovich said Miami will likely decide on which conference to join, if any, by early October.
Unlike the SEC, Big East representatives have yet to contact Miami president Edward T. Foote II. Miami is said to be more interested in the Big East than the SEC because it would require only six conference football games and allow Miami to keep a national schedule with its other five games.
It would be substantially more difficult to win a football national championship with an SEC football schedule than a Big East schedule. If Miami were to join the Big East, it could then schedule cross-over games with the Southwest Conference in addition to its yearly games with Florida and Florida State. That combination would eliminate any and all future scheduling problems.
Kramer visited the South Carolina campus yesterday and spent four hours at the home of president Arthur Smith.
Kramer, who spent 90 minutes at Foote's office Tuesday, left without speaking to the media. Kramer is looking to add a 12th team to his conference.
Unlike with Miami, the SEC already has the unanimous approval of the South Carolina board of trustees.