A decision on whether the University of Miami will join the Big East Conference is expected to be made within a month, Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese said yesterday.

If a deal is struck, it could trigger a football alliance between what would be the Big East's four Division I-A football-playing schools -- also Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Boston College -- and the ACC's nine institutions, including recently added Florida State.

Such an alignment is preferred by the Big East as the best long-term solution to making sure it survives as a major basketball conference, which would remain intact, according to Tranghese. There is the possibility of losing Syracuse and Pitt. The ACC last spring showed little interest in this alliance.

But Tom Mickle, an ACC assistant commissioner, said yesterday that "lukewarm" reaction was reached prior to the point at which the ACC began talks with Florida State and the Big East started talks with Miami.

Mickle also left open the possibility the talks would resume if Miami joins the Big East. "It's not to say it couldn't happen down the road," he said.

The ACC also plans to have exploratory talks with Miami as soon as Commissioner Gene Corrigan returns this week from a vacation, according to ACC and Big East officials.

Larry Wahl, a Miami spokesman, said the ACC is one of several options the Hurricanes are considering, including the Big East, the Southeastern and the Southwest conferences.

Of Miami's possibly joining the Big East, Wahl said: "The only thing we've been saying is that the Big East is one of the options we've been looking at, and that we would hope to have a decision by mid-October whether or not we're going into a conference and, if so, what that conference would be."

The executive committee of Miami's Board of Trustees ultimately will decide what the university will do, and the Big East, sources said, would wait for a positive decision before officially inviting the Hurricanes to make a 10-team conference.

The Big East has a business meeting today and Wednesday, but will not have any "big announcements" coming out of it, Tranghese said.

"We're at the point of two parties who have expressed interest in each other," he said. "Miami and ourselves in the next month have to decide on something. We're assessing whether this is good for both of us. Are we interested in them? Yes. Are they interested in us. Yes."

Miami Athletic Director Sam Jankovich and President Edward T. Foote II could not be reached for comment.

Tranghese denied published reports that the Big East also is talking to the three football-playing members of the Atlantic 10 Conference.

"I've never had a conversation with a Rutgers, Temple or West Virginia," he said. "I think some people are getting panic struck and nervous, and they have been reading a lot of things into it."

Such a move would add three schools in markets already served by the Big East. Thus, the Big East would be splitting basketball tournament tickets and television revenue with three more schools without getting anything in return.

Tranghese also said he is not enamored with two divisions in basketball, a position also held by former commissioner Dave Gavitt.

The Big East is discussing several other possible football alliances, Tranghese said.

Miami's entrance into the Big East would make sense for both parties, especially if it provides the impetus for a Big East/ACC football alliance. "I believe it probably would be," the best of both worlds, Syracuse Athletic Director Jake Crouthamel said. "It would preserve the Big East without doing anything radical."

Joining the Big East also makes sense for Miami in terms of demographics. "Our second recruiting base, behind Florida, is the Northeast," Wahl said. "It's the same with the alumni base, the general student body base and the fund-raising base."

A 13-team team, two-division football league would make this one of the strongest football alignments in the country, including six of the strongest football programs in the country -- Miami, Florida State, Clemson, Virginia, Pitt and Syracuse.

"It solves a basketball problem for Miami, and a football problem for us," Tranghese said.

"If you don't have an alliance with football schools, you're going to be left out in the future," Tranghese predicted. "The superconferences will say, 'Why do I have to share the money?' The whole {new basketball tournament} plan is to be fair to everyone.

"The day is going to come when the super conferences will not want to share with the conferences that don't play football. If we lose {our football-playing schools}, we're putting ourselves in a very vulnerable position."