TAMPA — Eight, it would seem, is enough for Big East football, for now.
The conference denied an Orlando TV report that invitations could go as early as next week to Conference USA schools Central Florida and Memphis, with associate commissioner John Paquette saying WKMG-TV's report was "not true."
In recent months the Big East's future seemed uncertain because of the prospect of the Big Ten raiding multiple schools as it sought to expand. That threat is gone for the immediate future, with the league settling at 12 teams with the addition of Nebraska, but there's nothing to stop such a raid from happening next summer.
Big East commissioner John Marinatto did not return a call, but he has consistently said the conference hasn't added a ninth football member because there hasn't been an available school that would bring value to the league.
When the Big East was raided in 2003-04, the league turned to C-USA, plucking USF, Cincinnati and Louisville, as well as DePaul and Marquette as nonfootball members. The current C-USA teams most often mentioned as possible additions are UCF, East Carolina and Memphis.
That list hasn't changed, and the league hasn't been concerned enough to pre-emptively add depth to its football lineup.
"The Big East has been in a bunker mentality, hoping to keep enough of its eight current (football) members to remain a viable (I-A) conference with automatic qualification for BCS bowl games," ECU athletic director Terry Holland wrote in a letter to fans last week. "… The 'internal' solution of choice is for Notre Dame to agree to move their football program into the Big East. As long as there is the slightest possibility this could happen, the Big East will not close the door on that possibility by adding someone else as the ninth member."
UCF, in addition to a large media market, would give the Big East another Florida presence, allowing all its football schools to play in Tampa or Orlando every year to aid in recruiting.