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Cincinnati, Connecticut evaluating options for new ‘Big East’ makeup with an eye towards ACC?

Dec 14, 2012, 11:47 AM EST

UConn Herbst Speech AP

Obviously with the news that the seven schools that don’t play football at the FBS level are making moves to leave the Big East and establish their own conference, the remaining members have to figure out what their course of action will be.

The two schools most often discussed are Cincinnati and Connecticut, as they were the schools thought to be in the running for that 14th spot in the ACC before the conference decided to pluck Louisville from the weakened grasp of the Big East.

While they are discussing the possibility of an all-sports conference that would include the new members arriving from Conference USA and some of the Mountain West’s best basketball programs, Mike DeCourcy of the Sporting News writes that Cincinnati and UConn could be using it as leverage to push the ACC to move to 16 members (adding them in the process).

In order to form such a league, however, UConn and Cincinnati would have to make some sort of profound commitment — perhaps even a “grant of rights” similar to the Big 12’s, meaning they’d lose their media revenue for the length of time if they leave — to convince the Western schools involved that they would not exit immediately if invited to join the ACC.

That could become leverage to convince current members of the ACC — especially some of its more vulnerable longtime schools, such as Duke and Wake Forest, to invite Cincinnati and UConn now and bring the current conference membership to 16.

My question: why would Cincinnati and UConn wanting to avoid agreeing to a grant of rights clause force the ACC’s hand? At this point, with 14 all sports members and Notre Dame on board for all sports other than football, does the ACC truly “need” to expand any further?

Sure there have been rumblings of schools such as Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Virginia being the target of other conferences, but how valid are those rumors? Without a grant of rights agreement of its own the ACC is vulnerable, but to the point of a “doomsday” in the near future? Not so sure about that.

Even if there was a reason for John Swofford and the presidents he represents to be concerned with the changing landscape, they know that schools like Cincinnati, Connecticut, South Florida (you could essentially rattle off the entire list of schools in the FBS portion of the Big East at this point) would jump at the opportunity if the ACC sent them an invite.

Are super conferences as inevitable as many seem to believe? Maybe, maybe not, but there will be many moving parts to consider if that were to happen. Cincinnati and UConn using the possibility of a new conference to land an invitation from the ACC? Wouldn’t expect that strategy to be successful.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.