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AP Source: Pac-12 Leaning Towards Expanding Conference

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NEW YORK (AP) - As the Big East tries to figure out a survival strategy, the Pac-12 is nearing a decision on whether it wants to stretch farther east.

Big East football school officials were meeting Tuesday night in New York City to discuss the league’s future, and a Pac-12 official expects conference presidents in that league to decide by the end of the week if they want to expand again.

The Big East is trying to figure out what’s next now that Pittsburgh and Syracuse have announced they are leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Three people with knowledge of the Big East meeting told The Associated Press that presidents and athletic directors from the conference’s six remaining football members, along with officials from TCU, which is slated to join in 2012, were expected to meet with Commissioner John Marinatto. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the meeting, which was first reported by USA Today.

The remaining Big East football schools are West Virginia, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Rutgers, Louisville and South Florida.

The future of the Big East could be tied to the future of the Big 12.

Although Syracuse and Pittsburgh know where they’re headed, Texas and Oklahoma both are trying to decide whether to leave the Big 12 for the Pac-12, taking Oklahoma State and Texas Tech with them.

Both universities’ board of regents voted Monday to give their presidents the right to choose a new conference. And Oklahoma State’s regents have scheduled a special meeting Wednesday afternoon about conference realignment.

University of Oklahoma President David Boren has said the two in-state rivals will remain in the same league whether they decide to stay in the Big 12 or join the Pac-12.

“Whatever we do, we’re going to do it together, and I think that’s very good news for the state of Oklahoma,” Boren said.

Should the Oklahoma schools decide to leave – and the Pac-12 agrees to take them – it could be the death knell for the Big 12, which already lost Nebraska and Colorado last summer and will lose Texas A&M if the Aggies are able to resolve legal issues that have their planned move to the Southeastern Conference on hold.

The Pac-12 official, also speaking on condition of anonymity because the league has not revealed its plans, said the presidents probably would need near agreement across the board to agree to expand.

Texas officials have said they’re not interested in remaining in a Big 12 stripped of those other programs. That would leave only five schools – Baylor, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri – remaining in the league that once had 12 teams.

Officials from those five schools have been in contact with the remaining Big East members about the possibility of merging to create one conference.

But the Big East might be facing more defections.

UConn President Susan Herbst said no formal application has been filed with any conference, and the school has not ruled out staying in a reconstituted Big East. But she said she’s receiving inquiries from across the country as the school considers which conference might make the best fit.

ACC Commissioner John Swofford has said his league is comfortable with 14 members, which it will have when Pitt and Syracuse join, but it is not “philosophically” opposed to expanding to 16.

Adding UConn and possibly Rutgers, located in New Jersey, would allow the ACC to further extend its reach into the Northeast and New York City television market.

The Big East, which lost Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC in the early 2000s, requires 27 months’ notice if members decide to leave for another conference.

Marinatto told The New York Times on Monday night that he plans to force Pittsburgh and Syracuse to stay in the Big East until the 2014-15 academic year.

With dozens of schools and almost every conference affected by realignment, rumors, reports and speculation emerge almost daily.

The SEC quickly responded to reports that Missouri was on deck to join the conference if the Big 12 fell apart.

“The Southeastern Conference has not agreed formally or informally to accept any institution other than Texas A&M, and there have not been conference discussions regarding changes in divisional alignments,” SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom said.

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AP College Football Writer Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City and Associated Press Writer Pat Eaton-Robb in Storrs, Conn., contributed to this report.

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