EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Fresh off two defections that shattered the conference, the Big East has little time to regroup if it wants to maintain its status as a major player in college football.
At the conference's final football media day before powerhouses Miami and Virginia Tech bolt, commissioner Mike Tranghese said the remaining 12 schools need to decide soon whether they want to stay together or split into two conferences -- one that plays football and one that doesn't.
"That's the first question that has to be answered," Tranghese said Wednesday. "We can't proceed until we have that answer."
Negotiations for the next Bowl Championship Series contract begin in September 2004, and the Big East needs to add at least two teams in order to maintain its conference status and the quality of those schools could determine its place in the BCS.
When Miami and Virginia Tech leave after this season for the Atlantic Coast Conference and Temple gets kicked out after 2004, the Big East will have six football schools remaining: Boston College, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, and West Virginia.
The conference will likely add two or three teams, although no premier programs probably will be available. Louisville, Cincinnati, Central Florida and South Florida are among the top possibilities, though he said it was doubtful Notre Dame would join.