MIAMI, SEPT. 29 -- Orange Bowl officials have discussed awarding an automatic berth to the Atlantic Coast Conference if the league expands by adding independent Miami, which is investigating possible affiliations with the Big East or ACC.

"There's going to be a very limited number of teams available to us unless we look into this," Orange Bowl Committee President Arthur Hertz told the Miami Herald yesterday. "We'll have {a league's} runner-up or a co-champion and it won't let us put together a possible championship game."

The New Year's night game currently awards one at-large invitation and one automatic berth to the Big Eight Conference champion.

If Miami joins the Big East, an agreement between that league and the Orange Bowl is possible, bowl members told the newspaper.

"I've not yet spoken to bowls, but we have a clear understanding of the value of having a University of Miami," said Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese, who'll visit the Miami campus Oct. 8. "I would have to be interested in the Orange Bowl. You don't pursue the University of Miami and not have an interest in the Orange Bowl."

Miami officials have said they want to decide their conference future by Oct. 16.