The Big East Conference will produce a football champion in 1991, Commissioner Mike Tranghese announced yesterday as an aftermath of Wednesday's meeting of Big East I-A football participants in Washington.
Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Boston College and Miami will form a four-team football league and four other potential members -- Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Rutgers and Temple -- will meet individually with the conference in January to discuss their future.
If the four supplicants -- all but Virginia Tech belong to the Atlantic 10 -- are accepted, they will participate only in football. Tranghese emphasized that the discussions would not embrace any other sport.
The Big East needs at least six schools to form a football conference, according to NCAA regulations.
"Obviously, the fact that we're inviting them in is a good sign," Tranghese told the Associated Press. "We could play with six, we could play with seven, we could play with eight."
Many of the schools involved are on one another's schedules in the near future, so it would be no problem to come up with a championship formula. Syracuse, for example, will play Pittsburgh, Boston College, West Virginia, Temple and Rutgers in 1991, with Miami added in 1992.
Tranghese said the football alignment had received "the support and endorsement of the entire Big East membership." The other six members of the basketball-oriented conference -- Georgetown, St. John's, Villanova, Seton Hall, Providence and Connecticut -- do not play Division I-A football, although Villanova and Connecticut have strong I-AA programs that could be expanded.
Georgetown and St. John's have Division III programs that could be jeopardized when the NCAA meets next month in Nashville. Division III schools have complained about I-A basketball schools, specifically Dayton, that have been highly successful playing Division III football. A proposal at the convention would prohibit Division I-A schools from playing down in one sport while allowing lesser schools to play up to a Division I level in one sport, such as lacrosse or ice hockey.
Frank Rienzo, Georgetown's athletic director, was unavailable for comment yesterday. He had said earlier that he would be "shocked" if any football commitment evolved from Wednesday's eight-hour meeting. He had decried any possible return of Georgetown to I-A football, citing a necessary "five million dollars a year" investment.
The recent addition of Miami gave the Big East a viable football option. Miami has been a contender for the national championship throughout the '80s and the Big East is likely to try to use the Hurricanes' presence as leverage to obtain a bowl hookup for its football champion.
"It is my feeling that the Big East football conference will have a revenue-sharing plan, an attractive television package and perhaps a bowl tieup," said Virginia Tech Athletic Director Dave Braine.
Tranghese had said earlier that a major reason for adding Miami as a 10th member was to remove the temptation for Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Boston College to jump elsewhere. Miami, on the other hand, was struggling as a basketball independent and needed the Big East to boost its program in that sport.