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Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim hopes Big East is not affected by conference expansion

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — His school is often mentioned as a possible target for Big Ten expansion, but Syracuse men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim said Tuesday that he hopes to see as little change as possible to conference lineups, both for his school and for the Big East.

"We'll see what happens, but I think we're all hoping the Big Ten decides on a smaller, maybe a one-team expansion," Boeheim said as the league's coaches and athletic directors meet for their annual spring meetings. "Maybe they wouldn't touch the Big East, and we'd be fine."

Syracuse was a founding member of the conference in 1979, and Boeheim has been the Orange coach throughout its existence in the league. He said the league has changed its size over the years, but its current setup — 16 teams for basketball, eight for football — is working well.

"I think we have a good league, a very good situation," he said. "It's survived everything. Everybody thought we wouldn't survive '04-05, and we survived and really have done really well. … It's been good for us obviously. It's been good for everybody. We've got one of the two or three best basketball conferences in the country, and our football has held its own. We hope we come out of this as we are."

The Big East has extended outside its original geography, adding USF as a Florida market (replacing Miami), and adding Midwest basketball programs such as DePaul and Marquette. Boeheim said models that have the Big Ten expanding from 11 teams to 14 or 16 in football might be beyond the ideal size for a league.

"I think the ACC learned that a big expansion doesn't necessarily help you," said Boeheim, referencing the league taking Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College from the Big East six years ago. "A real big expansion, like five teams? We play 16 in basketball, which is big, but we don't play 16 in football. You're going to play 16 in football and basketball, I'm not sure you end up with a product you really want. It might make a little more money, but I don't know if it's good for college sports."

NEW FORMAT?: The league's men's basketball coaches have unanimously recommended to the league's athletic directors that the format of the conference basketball tournament be changed, getting rid of two rounds of byes in favor of a standard 16-team format split over five days.

Big East commissioner John Marinatto said the athletic directors have tabled their vote so that more research can be conducted, but he expected a decision from conference presidents by the end of June. The unanimous recommendation will hold significant weight, following two seasons in which the league's top four seeds have struggled against lesser teams after getting the first two days of the tournament off.

Under the new plan, the opening round would be split over the first two days, with the tournament's top four seeds playing Tuesday, then getting Wednesday off (assuming they win) while the middle eight teams play. The format might give the league a stronger TV presence on the first two days, as opposed to the current format, where the best teams don't play until the third day.

REKINDLED?: USF coach Skip Holtz said he has spoken with Central Florida coach George O'Leary about their schools playing in football, and while he's "not opposed to" the rivalry, he said it's a decision to be made by Bulls athletic director Doug Woolard.

"I know that he has had some correspondence with them, that they have talked about the possibility of that being brought up in the future," Holtz said. "I'm not opposed to it. When we were at East Carolina, we played North Carolina (home and home), played N.C. State, Duke, Wake Forest. We've played people above us and below us from a conference standpoint. I like the geographic rivalries it creates for your fan base."

The Bulls have an opening for a non-BCS series starting in 2011-12 — they've scheduled a home-and-home with Ball State of the Mid-American Conference in those two seasons. USF and UCF played four times from 2005-08, with the Bulls winning all four.

Times staff writer Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf and check him out at Twitter.com.

Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim hopes Big East is not affected by conference expansion 05/25/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:20pm]
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