Big East Conference athletic directors unanimously recommended that Virginia Tech be invited to join the conference in all sports as early as the 2000-2001 school year, according to two people who attended a conference meeting Wednesday. A vote by conference presidents to consider the move, which would give the Big East 14 teams, probably will occur within six weeks, conference sources said.

In a related development, the athletic directors also decided that if the presidents approve Virginia Tech's entry, it would be logistically unwieldy for all 14 teams to continue playing in the conference's men's basketball tournament, the conference sources said. The athletic directors are discussing having an 8-, 10- or 12-team field for the tournament.

At least nine of the 13 Big East school presidents must approve Virginia Tech's entry. Virginia Tech already is a member of the Big East football conference, but it competes in the Atlantic 10 Conference in all other sports except wrestling. (Its wrestling team would remain in the Eastern Wrestling League because the Big East does not have a championship in that sport.)

The presidents have been kept informed throughout the process of considering Virginia Tech, a league source said. Despite the issue of the men's basketball tournament format, one person at this week's meeting said approval of Virginia Tech is likely. "It's a matter of dotting the I's and crossing the T's," said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "The bottom line is this is being done for the good of the conference."

Virginia Tech, whose primary student recruiting base is from Virginia northward, has long been seeking a single conference affiliation. And it has had one distinct advantage in its recent quest for full Big East membership: a top football program in a conference that is the weakest of the six leagues with automatic bids in the Bowl Championship Series.

The six-week delay before the presidential vote will give Commissioner Mike Tranghese and his staff an opportunity to complete research on cost, travel and scheduling, write a final recommendation and give the presidents time to discuss the matter with their athletic directors. Tranghese could not be reached to comment.

Virginia Tech Athletic Director Jim Weaver said: "Would we be excited if the opportunity [to join the Big East] would come our way? The answer is yes."