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Big East Approves Football Expansion Plans; TCU Possible Target

The Big East Conference unanimously approved the process to explore expansion on Monday.

In a press release on the conference's website, the Big East announced its plans to increase the number of football-playing members from eight to 10. The Big East is currently the smallest BCS football conference.

"Today, our Board of Directors affirmed a set of key strategic initiatives, including expansion, designed to enhance membership stability and maximize our value," stated Commissioner John Marinatto.

According to ESPN.com's Big East Blogger Brian Bennett, the schools rumored to possibly join the Big East are: TCU, Villanova, Central Florida and Houston. From Bennett:

Tuesday's announcement was hardly out of the blue. While many fans criticized commissioner John Marinatto for not doing anything during the summer conference madness, the Big East has been quietly mapping out its future strategy. It hired former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue as a consultant to help look into, among other things, the formation of a possible TV network. There have been preliminary discussions already about Villanova moving up and with TCU. This was merely a formal approval of that process and an acceleration (and getting a majority on board in a 16-team league where half the membership doesn't play football could not have been easy).

This is the right move by the Big East, and as I wrote in my mailbag earlier Tuesday, going to 10 teams now is smarter than expanding to 12 and adding a championship game. For one, I'm not sure there are four viable candidates for new members out there. You also have to consider the non-football side of things; if Villanova moves up that means only one more program will actually be added to the basketball and Olympic sports alignment.

What the league needs to do now is make sure it's not expanding just to expand. It needs to find new schools that actually add to the league and make it more competitive nationally.