Big East wants to expand to 10 schools

The Big East conference is set to expand its football roster.

Big East presidents unanimously agreed to expand the number of football-playing schools to 10 at Tuesday's board of directors meeting in Philadelphia.

Commissioner John Marinatto said in a statement potential expansion candidates will start to be evaluated. Neither he nor the athletic directors or Big East advisor Paul Tagliabue would comment to the Associated Press after the meeting.

The 16-member Big East, where all members play basketball, has eight teams playing football. There was no timetable announced for a decision.

The conference informed Villanova shortly before Labor Day that it wanted to add the Wildcats to the football roster. Villanova, which currently plays in the Colonial Athletic Assn. and won a national championship last year, is considering a move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision. If it does, that will fill one of the Big East's spots.

Villanova, which made the Final Four in 2009, has been part of the Big East basketball conference since 1980.

The Wildcats have played football at the second-tier level since 1985 and rejected an earlier offer to join the Big East in 1997. Connecticut accepted an invitation that season to start the process to move up to what was known as Division I-A.

Other potential expansion targets include Texas Christian from the Mountain West Conference, and Central Florida and Houston from Conference USA. Though Texas schools seem like an odd fit geographically, it would allow the Big East to tap into huge television markets and fertile recruiting territory.

Player dies

Mississippi State officials say defensive end Nick Bell died Tuesday at the University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital after battling cancer since late September.

Bell, a 20-year-old from Bessemer, Ala., was diagnosed after experiencing headaches during football practice and had surgery Oct. 1 to remove a mass from his brain. He had emergency surgery on Monday morning after it was found that the cancer had spread throughout his body.

Bell, a 6-foot-3, 265-pound sophomore, played in four games this season, starting two. He made seven tackles.

Wulff's job status

Washington State Coach Paul Wulff doesn't think the Cougars have to win at least one of their final three games in order for him to retain his job.

Wulff believes his rebuilding program is progressing and that the team has played to its potential for much of the season. Last week's 42-0 loss at Arizona State was a step back, and Wulff said his team did not respond to the challenge.

The Cougars (1-8, 0-6 Pac-10) have lost 15 straight Pacific 10 games since last season.

No regrets for Dantonio

Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio says he has no regrets about reinstating Chris L. Rucker immediately after the defensive back served eight days in jail for a probation violation.

Rucker didn't start for the Spartans last week against Iowa, but he entered Saturday's game in the second quarter. Michigan State lost 37-6.

"In terms of the timing of it all, I would have done nothing different," Dantonio said Tuesday. "I believe that whenever you have a problem you need to get out front as best you can and handle your problem, and I think he did that. That problem was not resolved until Thursday, so I wasn't making any decisions until Thursday."

Rucker was suspended indefinitely last month when he was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated. He later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of reckless driving.

Choke sign

Georgia Coach Mark Richt says assistant Todd Grantham was caught up in the emotions of an overtime game when he gave a choke sign to Florida kicker Chas Henry.

A television snapshot from Sun Sports in Florida shows Grantham, Georgia's defensive coordinator, with one hand on his throat as Henry lined up for his winning field goal in the Gators' 34-31 win on Saturday.

When asked about the unusual gesture by his assistant, Richt said Tuesday that he doesn't think Grantham is "necessarily proud of it." Richt says Grantham will "learn from it and move on," but did not say he faces any disciplinary action.


Minnesota defensive tackle Brandon Kirksey has been suspended for the game against Michigan State on Saturday.

Interim Coach Jeff Horton did not say why Kirksey was suspended, but did say he expects the team captain to return for the Golden Gophers' game on Nov. 14 at Illinois.

Horton also suspended defensive back Michael Carter and defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman for academic issues. Horton says it is likely those two will not play the rest of the season.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World