Expansion: What's next for the Big East?

The Big East’s respite will be brief. The Big Ten has given no indication that it will stop at 12 teams. The league is interested in cable subscribers. The northeast is contiguous to the Big Ten -- thank you, Penn State -- and there are an enormous number of Big Ten alumni up and down the eastern seaboard.

That means that Rutgers, Syracuse and Pittsburgh will be on the Big Ten’s radar. All three are members of the Association of American Universities, a prerequisite for Big Ten membership. None of those schools leaves a major footprint in New York. But the opportunity to have Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State or now, Nebraska, come into Rutgers Stadium each fall would bring the Big Ten into the area.

Last week, it looked as if the Big East would be able to go on the offensive. If the Big East had been able to throw a lifeline to Kansas and Missouri, it would have made the league stronger. That scenario evaporated with the Big 12’s decision to remain in business as a 10-team conference.

Is there another team or group of teams out there that would strengthen the Big East as a football league? Notre Dame, which participates in the Big East in every sport but football, has given no indication that it would like to change that arrangement.

That means the Big East is left to play defense. The league has hired former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue as a consultant. Tagliabue, as a former Georgetown basketball player, has a unique understanding of the league. He is also a very smart attorney, well-schooled in the boardroom arts.

And it may or may not be coincidence, but Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) announced last week that the Senate Commerce Committee that he chairs will hold hearings soon on the state of college football. Since Rockefeller’s state university is a Big East member, he has plenty of reasons to protect the conference.

“The Big East [Conference] is a jewel, it's a precious thing and should be protected,” Rockefeller said on MetroNews Talkline.

However, it is also true that Tagliabue’s daughter is married to Rockefeller’s son. Whatever retainer the Big East is paying Tagliabue just might be worth it.