Conference shuffle

The Vikings raided Europe in the 12th century, ransacking the land. The Atlantic Coast Conference doesn’t have any Vikings, but it does have Cavaliers, Blue Devils and Yellow Jackets. The ACC lately has resembled modern day Vikings, rampaging and pillaging the Big East.

Could the Big East be ready to make a role reversal?

After watching the ACC sweep in and steal football powers Virginia Tech and Miami, the Big East is on the hunt for new members, and Conference USA looks like prime hunting ground. What can C-USA do to avoid being overrun?

Popular speculation has league member Louisville all but signed, sealed and delivered to the Big East. Louisville Athletics Director Tom Jurich even acknowledged he wants to talk with the Big East.

“Those are some very attractive schools to be partnered with,” said Jurich in The Louisville Courier-Journal. “We would certainly listen. And I think anybody in our conference would do the same.”

But USF Athletics Director Lee Roy Selmon urged caution before diving into such rumors. Considering what happened to Boston College and Syracuse, when the rumor had them as card-carrying members of the ACC, that might be good advice.

“We understand and appreciate that situations like this are cause for much speculation, but I would caution that even a week ago, the trendy speculation would have been incorrect,” Selmon said in a statement Tuesday. “This is a very fluid situation, and we are talking to and gathering information from various constituencies within college athletics around the country.”

Regardless if the speculation is on target or not, these are the facts: The Big East has six schools that play football for 2005. That’s not going to cut it in Division I, so the league is going to need new blood. The question is, from where will the Big East’s infusion come?

“We continue to monitor the national landscape, and our commitment remains to ensuring we continue on our path to becoming an elite Division I program,” Selmon said. “We are in a very strong conference currently, and we are committed to making sure we remain in a very strong conference.”

In January, the Big East thought it was a strong conference as Miami went for a second straight National Championship. Six months later, the league lost 1/4 of its members. Why?

It’s as simple as three letters — BCS.

“If that’s in Conference USA, it’s great,'” Jurich said. “And if it’s somewhere else, so be it.”

With the money spent on college athletics, especially football, the lure of the BCS is great. The $15 million payday, or even the portion of that amount a school gets if another team in its conference goes to a BCS bowl, is vital to athletic department budgets. USF, for instance, is spending more than $20 million to build its new athletic facility and retain the services of football coach Jim Leavitt for another five years. They have to pay for that somehow.

“We have a great success story to tell at USF, and we’re ready and willing to tell it in the appropriate settings,” Selmon said.