- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 21, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Navy and Air Force are the top choices for Big East expansion, but as football-only members, a person with knowledge of the discussions tells The Associated Press.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity on Wednesday because the conference does not want to publicly disclose its plans.

Navy is an independent and has played in a bowl eight straight seasons. Air Force plays in the Mountain West Conference and has been to a bowl each of the last four years. East Carolina of Conference USA announced on Wednesday it has applied for membership in the Big East.

The Big East is regrouping after Syracuse and Pittsburgh joined the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Leaders from the Big East football schools and TCU, which is to enter the league in 2012, met with Commissioner John Marinatto in Manhattan on Tuesday night. All the league’s members, including the eight nonfootball-playing schools, committed to recruit new members.

But the league’s status is still less than stable, especially with another piece of the realignment puzzle missing.

Once Texas A&M makes a clean break from the Big 12, the SEC will be at 13 teams, and likely looking for No. 14. Missouri seemed a candidate, but Big 12 officials are working to save that league.

There has been speculation the SEC could have West Virginia of the Big East as a target to be the 14th school.

“As I stated before, WVU is an excellent flagship, land-grant University, with national-caliber athletic and academic programs,” West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck said in a statement Wednesday. “We are, and will remain, a national player in college athletics.”

There also has to be concern in the Big East that the ACC could come back for more of its members.

UConn and Rutgers would allow the ACC to expand even farther north and give Pitt, Syracuse and Boston College, which the league plucked from the Big East in 2003, two more local rivals.

Multiple officials at Connecticut said the school has not committed to staying in the Big East Conference and continues to look at other conference options. The officials asked that their names not be used because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations.

Connecticut President Susan Herbst issued a statement Tuesday thanking fans for their patience and reiterated that the school “will always do what is in the best interests for the University of Connecticut.”

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Associated Press Writer Pat Eaton-Robb in Storrs, Conn., contributed to this report.

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