PONTE VEDRA BEACH — If USF football wins a Big East division title sometime, the Bulls could host a league championship game at Raymond James Stadium, based on the unanimous endorsement of league coaches and athletic directors at Tuesday's meetings.
When the Big East announced an expansion big enough to merit separate divisions, then-commissioner John Marinatto spoke of a football title game in New York, an event to match the league's basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden. But with a sprawling geography that would likely limit attendance, the league now plans having the best division champ host.
"It was unanimous to go with an on-campus conference championship," associate commissioner Nick Carparelli said after the second full day of meetings. "We did a lot of research prior to this discussion, spoke to the Pac-12 about the experience they had, and they felt very comfortable with their decision. They felt in the first year of their championship game, the proof was in the pudding."
Oregon beat UCLA 49-31 in the first Pac-12 title game, playing to a sellout crowd of 59,376 in Autzen Stadium. That model is familiar for Bulls coach Skip Holtz, who won two Conference USA championships at East Carolina, one at home and one on the road. Having the best team host rewards regular-season success, and makes it less likely that a potential national playoff team would be derailed in a title game.
"I like the campus model," Holtz said. "When you look at what may be better for one league, it doesn't necessarily make it best for us. We didn't come to any firm decision, but as a coaches group, we came out coming to an agreement that this is what we prefer. It makes more sense for our league than a neutral site."
The league will consider "dozens" of models for divisions, including east-west and north-south lines, but Holtz said coaches prefer a non-geographic split that would have a Florida, Texas and West coast presence in each division, opening key areas for recruiting to all Big East schools.
STILL IN DEMAND: The bowl system could see major changes as a playoff gets closer, but Carparelli said after attending the Football Bowl Association meetings last month, he talked with "over a dozen" bowl representatives about potential alliances.
"There's no shortage of interest in the Big East in terms of bowl games, given our new geography," said Carparelli, noting that the westward expansion with Boise State, San Diego State, Houston and SMU joining in 2013 should line up a bowl presence "coast to coast."
EVERYBODY IN: Interim commissioner Joe Bailey said coaches and athletic directors want all schools to compete in the Big East men's basketball tournament — likely meaning 18 teams for 2013-14. That would require two play-in games on Monday of championship week to start a six-day tournament. The league's contract with Madison Square Garden doesn't provide for a sixth day, so either a renegotiation or another site for play-in games would be required.
THIS AND THAT: Carparelli said the league is "firmly committed" to an eight-game conference football schedule even as other leagues move to a nine-team model, saying the eight-game model allows more teams to be bowl-eligible. … Asked about a proposal requiring seven wins for bowl eligibility, Carparelli said the talk is "isolated athletic directors around the country … voicing their personal opinion, which is fine. In terms of groups that have the authority to make that change, I haven't been aware of much discussion." … The football ADs prefer a four-team playoff "rewarding conference champions as much as possible" while keeping a spot for an at-large berth. The league unanimously prefers a standings-based formula selection rather than a committee.