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Big East football close to collapse

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The landscape of college athletics is about to undergo seismic change that will likely result in the end of the Big East Football Conference and probably the Big 12 Conference, the New York Post reported Monday, citing multiple sources.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse's formal acceptance of invitations Sunday to join the Atlantic Coast Conference brought the Big East down to seven members in football.

Officials at Rutgers and Connecticut said they will be even more aggressive in considering their options than they have been in the last year.

Sources close to both programs told The Post there has been increased conversation with the ACC and Big Ten Conferences in the last 48 hours.

Connecticut, because of its basketball program, might be a better fit for the ACC. Rutgers, because of its status as an AAU university and squeaky-clean football program, might be a better fit for the Big Ten. Both are in desirable TV markets, especially Rutgers.

"If you're asking me if I'm concerned we'll be shut out, I'm not," Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti said on a conference call Sunday night. "I would tell you that it's a critical time. I think that would be understating it, even saying it's a critical time."

Connecticut president Susan Herbst released a statement Sunday saying she will be actively involved in finding a successful long-term future for her university's athletic teams.

Both of those universities could be headed to the ACC within three weeks, two sources told The Post. During a conference call Sunday morning, ACC commissioner John Swofford said he is very comfortable with 14 teams but is not philosophically opposed to going to 16 schools.

Notre Dame might have to finally consider surrendering its independence in football to provide a home for its non-revenue sports. The Irish have competed in the Big East in all sports except football, but with the Big East in peril, Notre Dame might be forced to join a league in all sports.

The Big Ten might finally get its wish by having waited out Notre Dame, a highly placed source in college athletics told The Post. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney said the changing landscape has not influenced his league to expand, but Notre Dame is the biggest prize in college football.

Notre Dame athletic Jack Swarbrick did not return a call.

Assuming the ACC cannot get the Irish and with Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State set to announce a move to the Pac-12, UConn and Rutgers would solidify an East Coast conference stretching from Boston to Miami with TV markets in New York (Syracuse and Rutgers), Boston (Boston College), Washington (Maryland), Pittsburgh, Miami and the Carolinas.

Big East commissioner John Marinatto did not return text messages.

The loss of UConn, Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse would destroy the Big East Football Conference. Its only possible salvation could be for the remaining members to align with the remaining members in the Big 12, which is facing its own crisis with the impending loss of four programs.

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That creation of a fifth 16-school conference is possible, but a source said even if the remaining Big East schools -- Cincinnati, Louisville, South Florida, TCU and West Virginia -- joined with Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri, the time almost surely has come for the Big East basketball schools to cut ties with the football members.

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Tagged: Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Connecticut, Notre Dame

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