This isn't much of a surprise. The Big East has had its eyes towards expansion for years, though seldom with any intent behind the idea. That has really appeared to change with the announcement by the Big East that it intends to add two Football playing members to the conference. Coaches have been complaining in private and in public about the 7 game conference schedule and how it manages to screw over half the conference each and every year because there will always be four teams with four conference road games each season.
Expansion makes a lot of sense for the conference, and now is the perfect time to do it. There has been ongoing speculation around various Big East blogs and message boards about who should get the nod and who shouldn't. If you want a complete picture of the schools rumored to be in contention read Sean Keeley's stuff over at the magician, or head over to Pitt Blather which has had a pretty good bead on the subject of conference expansion.
My position on this very simple. Football is driving this and the Big East has to go after the best available program, not a white whale, which would be Notre Dame. The best program that is gettable for the Big East is TCU. The Horned Frogs have had affiliation with Louisville, South Florida and of course UC in the past through Conference-USA. They are in conference which, though bucking for BCS affiliation, is unlikely to ever receive it according to the very rules that the BCS has laid down for inclusion. Then there is that small matter of BYU and Utah escaping from the clutches of the Mountain West's terrible television contract for greener, more lucrative pastures. Boise State may be coming into the conference, but they are bringing along Fresno State and Nevada, two schools who will not come close to pushing the meter to the same degree that the departing Beehive State institutions have over the life of the Mountain West. The fact of the matter is that losing Utah and BYU effectively killed the chances of Mountain West AQ status before Boise State and their WAC refugee friends even got in the door. The Big East has one huge selling point for TCU, its expiring TV contract. If my recollection is correct the current Big East TV contract expires at the end of 2012. As is the Big East's TV revenue easily trumps that of the Mountain West's, the prospect of adding what has been the 10 or 15 best programs of the last five years would surely push the bottom line every higher.
As for the second school, I don't particularly care to be honest. The two that make the most sense to me are Houston, assuming that TCU will indeed be coming on board, or Villanova which has one of the top FCS programs in the country and has a standing offer for inclusion should they decide that they want to play FBS level Football. The second school is, for the most part, extraneous, TCU is the school that matters. The Big East needs their funky uniforms, freaky mascot and their reputation , and they need to be rescued from the dungeons the Mountain West's television contract. Win. Win.