Beginning of the end for the Big East?

Not to overdramatize things, but this week could eventually be seen as the beginning of the end of Big East football, at least as we now know it.

The Big Ten's timetable for expansion, which originally was slated to last 12 to 18 months beginning last December, has accelerated. Big Ten officials planned to discuss expansion over the weekend in Washington D.C., and the BCS meetings this week in Phoenix could see major developments on that front. The Big Ten's coaches and athletic directors meet May 17-19 in Chicago.

Colleague Adam Rittenberg has a good breakdown of the potential timelines. Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller will be reporting on-site from those BCS meetings.

It looks more and more as if the Big Ten will add multiple teams, with Rutgers, Pitt, Syracuse and UConn as potential targets. As I went around to many Big East schools this spring, expansion was naturally the hot topic. Like most of the rest of us, the schools were nervous and anxious about what might happen, and basically just waiting to find out what the Big Ten would do. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney has promised to notify leagues that may be affected before talking to possible expansion candidates.

If the Big Ten does call on a Big East school, I expect the conversation would go something like this:

Delaney: Would you be interested in ...

Big East school: When can we start?

The schools that are the most nervous right now are West Virginia, Louisville, South Florida and Cincinnati. None appear to be serious candidates to join a supersized Big Ten, and unless the SEC or ACC want to grow, they could find themselves in trouble, at least for the immediate future. A Big East that loses two or even three teams will have a difficult time finding new members that will allow it to hold onto its BCS status.

Fans who want to see the Big East stay as is should root hard for Notre Dame to do a U-turn and join the Big Ten. That may be enough to satisfy the Big Ten's expansion ambitions alone.

If not, then it's likely that seismic changes are coming. And we may look back on this week as the beginning of the end for the Big East as we know it.