TCU, Villanova, UCF.
If you've been paying attention for the last 24 hours since the Big East announced it wanted to expand to ten football teams, these are the three "most likely" choices that the conference has to choose from. At least that's what the "experts" say. No one really knows for sure. Villanova is playing coy. UCF says they have no idea what you're talking about. TCU is like whatevs.
Oh and East Carolina, Memphis, Houston and UMass just want to remind you they're here and available.
The truth is, everyone's been talking out of their asses for the last day or so. There is no sure thing and no one school is an absolutely perfect choice (except one, but they're not interested). The only thing we know is the basic idea of who wants in and who's attractive enough to get invited.
Let's take a look at how this might play out based on what little we know...
The "What If Villanova Doesn't Count" Solution: TCU & UCF
I was thinking...what if the Villanova deal is separate from the two-team expansion? I mean, the Wildcats can't make the leap by at least 2014 and more likely 2015. That's a century in the world of college football, way too much can happen by then. With a TV deal expiring in 2013, wouldn't the Big East want to get those two teams in-house ASAP? Lock them in now and they can be in the league by 2012. So what if the Villanova decision is a separate entity? And when they join, it will bump the league to eleven and they'll eventually expand to twelve. Just a though.
If that's the case, that makes TCU and UCF the right choices. You cover your bases. You get a great football program and access to Texas. You also get another a rising football program in Florida and the Orlando market. Neither bring much to the table in basketball and will present you with some tough choices on that side, but that's part of the bargain you make when you start thinking football-first.
If you tell every Big East coach that they'll have a game in Texas and another game in Florida every two years, they'll take that in a heartbeat.
The Let's Make Sure St. John's & Providence Are Happy Solution: Villanova & Notre Dame
That team I mentioned that would be a perfect choice? That was Notre Dame. You know the drill. They're not interested so stop asking. Still, you can't but notice how perfect this scenario works out. Both teams already play basketball, thereby not requiring any changes to that side. Since Villanova is going to take some time to get up to speed, a team with a cache like Notre Dame is worth the unbalance for a few years. The Irish bring Chicago and a national following with them, perfect for any network deal.
The We're The Big East, Not The Big Midwest" Solution: Villanova & UCF
If you're tied down to this whole "being in the Eastern part of the United States" thing, which you really shouldn't at this point, you cut TCU and just go for the obvious choices. I suppose you could swap in East Carolina for UCF but all signs point to the Knights being the "sexier" pick for the conference. Regardless of what ECU AD Terry Holland thinks.
Sorry Memphis, you just don't have what we need right now. And UMass, while I appreciate your gusto, we're already crazy enough to take on one FCS school, we're not about to to try two at once.