The Big East can't move forward with expansion until it knows whether Boston College is staying or going to the ACC, multiple sources told ESPN.com Wednesday. And BC is waiting to hear from the ACC if it's going to be the 12th team or if the issue is dead for the foreseeable future.
Although ACC officials said they didn't discuss a 12th team at two-day meetings in Virginia, sources close to the process said the Eagles expect to know their fate in the coming weeks. Multiple authorities said the invitation hasn't come yet. But when it does, it is believed the Eagles would accept on the spot, hoping to compete in the ACC during the 2004-05 season.
Sources said the Big East is putting a pinch on the Eagles to find out what they are going to do, but BC can't offer an answer yet. Some inside the process think the ACC should not let BC continue to twist in the wind and has to give the Eagles a decision soon.
The ACC will likely need a 12th team for a financially-rich football championship game in 2004 and beyond. The NCAA Championship Cabinet and Football Issues committee failed to recommend to the NCAA management council to allow a championship football game with fewer than 12 teams. The management council and board of directors could make its own decision in April, but the lack of a recommendation doesn't bode well for the legislation to pass.
Getting 12 teams in ACC football would also allow for a better scheduling balance in the conference.
The Big East wants to avoid an embarrassing situation -- again -- if it were to announce it had expanded to 16 with Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette and DePaul and then lose Boston College soon after. That would mean the Big East would have to find another all-sports member, which would likely be South Florida or Central Florida. Central Florida received an invitation from the MAC Wednesday for all-sports membership. Central Florida plays football in the MAC, all other sports in the Atlantic Sun.
The Big East is losing Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC after this season. Getting to 16 schools would give the Big East eight Division I-A football schools and eight members that don't play football at that level.
If the Big East doesn't lose BC, then it could still add the four Conference USA schools in all sports, plus one of the Florida schools as an affiliate member in football to get to nine teams. That would allow more equitable scheduling, with four home and four road games.
The Big East is expected to move on expansion at a Nov. 5 meeting of the presidents in Philadelphia, although an announcement could come at a later date.
But the Big East and BC need to know what the ACC is going to do before that meeting.
BC missed out on being an ACC member in June by one vote.
In a related note, Notre Dame's candidacy is not an issue anymore, after the ACC said earlier this week that it would only take members for all sports. Notre Dame has been clear that it doesn't want to join a conference for football.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.