The collegiate football conference alignment shuffle took another dramatic swing Sunday with Boston College officially accepting an invitation to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, possibly beginning in 2006. The Eagles will be the third Big East school to leave the conference for the ACC.
What is significant about the move is that the Big East will need to add at least three football schools to maintain its NCAA certification, and the likely candidate schools are rumored to come from Conference USA.
“There sure are a lot of things happening it seems like,” USF football coach Jim Leavitt said.
Louisville and Cincinnati are the prime candidates to receive invitations to join the Big East, while USF is one of several other schools, including UCF, Marshall, Army, Navy and East Carolina, rumored to possibly make a conference jump.
Despite all the rumors, USF athletic director Lee Roy Selmon said the university has had no contact with Big East officials, but he will monitor the conference realignment situation closely.
“Our situation in regard to conference alignment has not changed, and we are proud to be affiliated with Conference USA. Like every university in the country, we continue to monitor developments nationally, and we remain focused on assessing all potential outcomes and making decisions based on what is best for our university,” Selmon said in a news release. “While we continue to do our due diligence and have conversations with associates around the country, I have not had any contact with anyone from the Big East Conference.”
USF President Judy Genshaft attended a C-USA meeting in Chicago on Tuesday and said the presidents agreed not to talk to the media about any arrangements in the conference.
“The meeting was positive, there were no surprises and it went as expected,” Genshaft said.
The Big East was expected to announce invitations to Louisville and Cincinnati to join the conference as all-sports members Nov. 4 at the conference meeting in Philadelphia. However, that plan was altered when BC decided to leave.
The Big East is now left with just five Division I-A football member schools, three short of the minimum for I-A conference affiliation rules. Louisville and Cincinnati were the only C-USA football schools the Big East was rumored to invite. The league was also courting DePaul and Marquette as basketball-only member schools to form a 16-team super conference.
The new developments could open the door for USF to join the Big East as an all-sports member, but it could cost the Bulls a significant amount of money, which is one of the problems BC is facing.
USF would have to pay a reported $500,000 to leave C-USA, and the decision would likely come after just one season playing as a football member in the conference.
In addition to the money, USF would still not be in a 12-team football conference, which prevents the Big East from holding a conference championship game, one of the reasons the ACC sought expansion in the first place. Also, the Big East recently filed a second lawsuit against the ACC, accusing the conference and its officials of plotting to weaken the Big East.
The biggest perk USF Football would enjoy from a jump to the Big East would be the BCS formula, which doesn’t recognize C-USA. That is something Leavitt sees as a bonus for the program.
“I do think for most college programs in the nation to be in a BCS situation is important,” Leavitt said. “The way the world is now, you have no chance at a national championship or any of the major bowls unless you’re in (a BCS) conference.”
However, Leavitt seems content with his team’s position, at least for the time being.
“For us to be in C-USA, we are very fortunate,” Leavitt said. “I’ve had people call me, this week and last week, about other schools going into (Division) I-A and what my thoughts are on that because we’ve done that. And I’ve said that it doesn’t mean a whole lot, to me, to go I-A. The key is you have to be in a conference because if you don’t have a conference, you don’t have a vehicle to television, bowl games or anything.
“So that’s why we’re fortunate to be in C-USA; they allowed us to come into the conference. You’ve got to be real careful when people ask you questions about the Big East, because you better say you’re very fortunate to be in C-USA; (and) I really mean that.”
Despite all the rumors, Leavitt isn’t getting too caught up in the situation.
“How it all plays out is as far from my world (as) could be possible,” he said. “The only way we have anything to do with any of this stuff is hopefully by playing well. We’ve been able to win a few games that have probably made us look like a team that might be competitive (and) that might be able to compete down the road.”