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Jim Boeheim says 17 teams are better than no Big East

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim works at cultivating his curmudgeonly image, and he has made no secret of his dislike for the unwieldy scheduling demands of a 16-team Big East in which it has been difficult to preserve traditional rivalries from the days when it was a basketball-oriented league. But Boeheim understands where big-time college athletics is headed and that football is driving the bus.

So, he gave his stamp of approval to the Big East's recent addition of TCU as the 17th member in all sports. The No. 3 Horned Frogs are playing in the Rose Bowl this year and will give Big East football a boost. Some believe the nine football schools, including Syracuse, eventually could split from those that don't play FCS-level football, but Boeheim said "I don't think there's any talk or any sense of that at all."

As for adding a 17th member, Boeheim said with a chuckle, "Sixteen or 17, what's the difference? I don't think it's an issue. Long run, if Villanova comes in [with upgraded football], then, we go with 17. If we add another football team and go to 18, then, the league has to look real hard at going to two nine-team divisions. We've done divisions before. It's not the worst scenario in the world."

One possibility would be to have an Eastern division that includes the remaining eight core members -- Connecticut, Georgetown, Pitt, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall, Syracuse and Villanova plus Rutgers, which would be a natural geographical and cultural fit. The Western division would include Cincinnati, DePaul, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, South Florida, TCU and West Virginia plus an 18th team added for football, possibly Central Florida. That would put four FCS football schools in the Eastern division and six in the Western division not including football independent Notre Dame.

"The hard thing is everybody wants to be in a certain division," Boeheim said. "Everybody wants to be with this school or that school. You can't do that. You have to make hard decisions, and everybody has to live with it. That's what happens when you expand so much.

"You have hard choices, and to preserve football, we'll now have to make hard choices about basketball if we go to 18. We'll have to think about divisions, talk about it to figure it out. Hopefully, we'll get to the conclusion we need to get to, and we'll be all right. It's better than the alternative."

That would be seeing the Big East break up as football schools, possibly including Syracuse, shift to other conferences. That's the last thing Boeheim wants to see happen.

New York Sports