Make all the "Big East-of-Tokyo" jokes you want about the reconfigured Big East football conference - we've thrown our share on the pile - but two schools in the Philadelphia area still want to play football in that league.
And there may be one spot left.
Yes, the endless loop of Big East contraction and expansion and speculation continues, even after San Diego State and Boise State and three others joined the Big East this week. If Air Force, which decided against joining (at least for now), had announced that move a month ago - who knows? - maybe Temple would be in already as the alternate for football only (who knows being the operative phrase when it comes to Big East football).
Even without Air Force, Navy sounds as if it is joining, but not yet, and nothing is done until it's done. But this much is fact: If the Big East is going to play with 12 football teams by 2014, it needs at least one more, and it sounds as if the league doesn't want the issue to linger too long.
This much is educated conjecture: Temple still is a football-only possibility. Villanova, already a Big East member for other sports, also has support - some from the football schools. (Enough support to get in? Don't know.) And despite Villanova's opposition to Temple's joining for all sports, that doesn't sound like a dead issue, either.
In other words: All options remain in play. Still. Maybe now more than ever.
We've talked to enough people in the last few days to be convinced the possibility of Villanova's moving up still is on the table. Villanova wasn't even an option in this last go-around basically because the conference, in survival mode, needed firm answers and Villanova, which would have to spend millions to move up, couldn't reasonably give one until it knew what the league was going to be. It also didn't help that Villanova wasn't shovel-ready, that it would need time to ramp up. But Villanova has a new development person in the athletic department spending more time looking to raise money for football. The school clearly wants to be in the mix.
We also have good reason to believe there are basketball schools in the Big East, schools that don't play football, that would like to see Temple added for all sports, given that the latest round of expansion obviously was a net minus for Big East basketball. (Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and West Virginia out. Southern Methodist, Houston, and Central Florida in.)
As a football-only addition, the Owls were never off the table, but the support became tepid. At least six football-only alternatives moved ahead of them (Navy, Air Force, Army, Boise State, Brigham Young, San Diego State). Basically, Western expansion got the football schools excited. And we hear it's still possible the Big East could try to replace Air Force with another Western school.
It's also possible the Big East now can look to add basketball members such as Xavier, Butler, or Dayton - which wouldn't require adding more football schools. Or Temple and Memphis could be added for all sports. Both schools seem to have moved ahead of East Carolina as all-sports options, since upgrading basketball is now a front-burner issue. Massachusetts would probably also be high on the list, except for the opposition of Connecticut. If UConn leaves for the Atlantic Coast Conference next year, we're betting UMass is on the list as a replacement. If it sounds like we're just throwing things against the wall - we're telling you the conversations that have gone on around the Big East lately.
Is there any scenario that could include Villanova's moving up in football and Temple's joining for all sports? Not likely, especially if Navy signs on, but it's not out of the question. At this point, what could be out of the question? Air Force's signing on at a future date - we heard that is still a possibility. (New Big East motto: We'll do anything, go anywhere. Make us an offer.)
As for now . . . the locals hang out in a kind of purgatory. Maybe Saturday's basketball game between Villanova and Temple at the Liacouras Center should be for some real stakes. Winner joins Big East football. Loser goes to Idaho every December for a hoops game.