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UH to the Big East?

Rumor has it.

The University of Houston could be a part of a Bowl Championship Series automatic-qualifying conference in the near future.

UH is one of six schools that the Big East Conference is targeting for expansion, a person familiar with the conference’s expansion discussions told the Chronicle on Friday.

Air Force, Boise State, Central Florida, Navy and SMU are the other schools being targeted, and the Big East’s presidents and chancellors will conduct a conference call on Monday to further discuss expansion plans, the person said. A timetable for moving forward on expansion is unclear.

UH athletic director Mack Rhoades released a statement in response to the speculation regarding the school’s athletic conference future.

“We are aware of the growing speculation regarding conference realignment and do not feel it would be appropriate to comment on the possible intentions of another league,” the statement read. “We are flattered to be mentioned as an athletics program of national importance and we are grateful for our strong traditions and the dedication of our fans, alumni, staff and student-athletes.”

Adding schools from Idaho, Colorado, and Texas would make the “Big East” about as appropriately named as the “Big XII” and the “Big Ten”, but I don’t suppose anyone cares about that. Meanwhile, Conference USA, which has three schools targeted by the Big East, and the Mountain West, which has two, went forward with its football-only merger plan as defense against that potential raid.

The two leagues expect to merge their football operations into one mega-conference that will probably have between 20 and 24 teams in it when it finally gets going in 2013.

The name? They’ll come up with one.

Will Boise State and Air Force, among others (like UH and SMU), stay? They hope.

“I’m just trying to create stability — greater stability — so we’re not talking about membership issues,” Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson said Friday night on a conference call. Both commissioners, Thompson and Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky, said the new arrangement will provide the security that top programs need to keep them from jumping ship.

By “security” he means “money”, but there is a little more to it than that.

According to a source with direct knowledge about Boise State’s and Air Force’s situations, the conferences went ahead with the alliance when Boise State indicated to the MWC that it didn’t plan to leave the conference.

The source also said Air Force had soured on the Big East deal a bit when Army decided against joining the Big East and Navy became skeptical of the plan.

[…]

Right now, the Big East has only six schools committed to play football in the league beyond this season.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse have announced they will move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, though Big East rules require them to stay in the league for the next two seasons, and Marinatto has said he will hold the Panthers and Orange to that. However, that seems unlikely if the league can’t grow to 12 teams for next season without them.

TCU was slated to join the Big East in 2012, but the Horned Frogs reneged on that commitment and accepted an invitation to the Big 12 last week.

Trying to recruit new members has been tricky for the Big East because its remaining members might also be looking for new conference homes.

Louisville and West Virginia are possible targets for the Big 12 if it needs to replace Missouri, which is pondering a move to the Southeastern Conference, or decides to expand back to 12 teams.

Connecticut has interest in joining the ACC if it expands again, and there has been speculation about Rutgers moving, too.

Remember that only UH, SMU, and Central Florida were invited for all sports by the Big East, so Boise State and Air Force would have to find another conference for their others sports if they went with that invitation. At this point, I think you have to consider everything to be written on sand. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen next.

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