Big East should look West

What's the matter with Kansas? Nothing, as far as the Big East is concerned.

The expected breakup of the Big 12 offers the Big East a rare and valuable opportunity. For the past couple of years, league officials have known they needed to expand in football. Yet there weren't any obvious candidates out there who would have made the conference stronger right away.

Now, assuming Texas and most of the rest of the Big 12 South bolt for the Pac-10 (or Pac-16 or whatever it will be called), such teams as Kansas, Missouri, Kansas State and Iowa State will be left as BCS orphans. And the Big East would be wise to adopt them as quickly as possible.

The geography, of course, is a problem. But not that big of a problem for a league that's already in Chicago and Milwaukee. Here are some distances to consider:

Lawrence, Kan., to Louisville: 560 miles

Lawrence to Cincinnati: 632 miles

Columbia, Mo., to Morgantown: 738 miles

Ames, Iowa to Pittsburgh: 802 miles

Tampa to Syracuse: 1,304 miles

Louisville to East Hartford, Conn.: 876 miles

So, really, the travel is not all that different than it is now, and the former Big 12 teams form natural rivals with each other. The Big East could form East and West Divisions, stage a championship game and have a legitimate 12-team conference that would keep its BCS tie-in. A Pittsburgh-Kansas State title game might not capture the nation's imagination, but it's a start.

The league should act fast, because the Mountain West is eyeing these same teams, which is a major reason why that conference delayed a vote on adding Boise State earlier this week. Maybe the Big 12 leftovers fit well with teams like TCU and Colorado State, but the geography becomes even more troublesome when you start talking about the far western teams in that league like San Diego State and New Mexico.

And while we know basketball is taking a backseat in expansion -- actually, hoops is in locked in the trunk right now -- we also realize that Kansas is a basketball school that takes great pride in its hardwood tradition. Do you think the Jayhawks would rather play basketball against the likes of Wyoming and Air Force or go toe to toe every week against Connecticut, Georgetown, Louisville, Syracuse, etc.?

The Big East can't yet offer the dollars that the Big 12 was paying out. But the league is exploring its own TV network, and think about the raised interest level in basketball games alone with the Big 12 schools on board. The Big East could also add St. Louis and Kansas City to its list of major metropolitan markets.

Adding four more schools would make the basketball alignment even more unwieldy, but as I've said before, the league should be willing to throw schools like DePaul, Seton Hall and (gasp!) Providence overboard if it means saving the conference in the bigger picture.

Bringing those four Big 12 teams on board would be a bold move. But now is the time for bold moves.