CORAL GABLES, Fla. - The University of Miami is emerging from a cloud of conference expansion talk as the key player in a possible major television alliance that could lead to a change in the face of college football.
Miami officials said yesterday they are narrowing their focus on expansion to the Big East and the Atlantic Coast Conference. Where Miami aligns will likely shape a new and major television package that could stretch coast-to-coast and capture about 45 percent of the nation's television market.
An ACC source said Miami's key-player role in how expansion will affect future TV packages weighs on the ACC's collective mind. The source said if Miami goes to the Big East, there's a strong likelihood the ACC and Big East would align for TV-contract purposes. That deal would lock up the Eastern Seaboard and capture about 38 percent of the nation's TV market.
However, the same source said if Miami joins the ACC, a blockbuster deal involving an ACC-Big Ten-Pac-10 alliance has been discussed.
``It would be premature to say that will happen,'' a high-ranking ACC source said. ``It's not premature to say it's being discussed.''
Big East sources say they have agreed to expand, and although they haven't officially extended Miami an invitation, there's an understanding. The Big East wants Miami.
``The next step is Miami's,'' Chris Plonsky, Big East assistant commissioner, said. ``We would like to think we could get an answer before the corn is harvested, so to speak.
``You can assume we are going to do football business. Miami is the linchpin.''
Miami is waiting for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Miami officials know they can join the Big East, but they don't want to commit until the door to the ACC is officially closed. Miami expects to decide by Oct. 16.