Xavier athletic director says Big East will likely expand, names four possible targets

Even though conference expansion has slowed since April when every ACC school signed an agreement tying them to the league through 2027, the trickle-down effect from this wave of realignment probably isn't fully over.

New Xavier athletic director Greg Christopher confirmed as much on Wednesday when he told his school's official site the new Big East remains interested in expanding from 10 to 12 teams sometime in the next few years. (See the 5:30 mark of the above video)

"I think the Big East will expand ... from 10 to 12," Christopher said. "I'm not sure it's actually set in stone but it does appear to be headed that way.

"I don't know that it's next year but it's probably sometime in the next five years. That would be the time window I would say. The four schools, the only thing I can tell you as someone new walking in the door is exactly what's been in the media. I don't think I'm telling you anything that anybody who follows this doesn't already know. It's Saint Louis, Dayton, Richmond and VCU, who are the four schools who always get mentioned. The last part I'll say is this decision is going to be made at the presidents' level, frankly, and that's the way it should be."

It's no surprise that the Big East remains interested in expanding or that its potential targets are four Atlantic 10 schools, but it's still interesting to hear Xavier's athletic director publicly confirm it. Christopher's statements only ratchet up the stakes for Saint Louis, Dayton, Richmond and VCU as they try to prove in the next year or two that they're the most worthy of a Big East invitation.

The two schools who receive invitations from the Big East would join a basketball-centric league with an enticing TV deal, a couple of name-brand programs and at least five schools who have been to an Elite Eight or further in the past decade. The two schools left behind will remain in a watered-down version of the Atlantic 10, one that will probably more resemble the old CAA than a power conference.

What will be most interesting is to see whether the new Big East extends an offer to VCU or not. A large urban public school would seem to be a poor fit in a league of mostly private, Catholic universities, but the Rams' success building their basketball program and their brand in recent years make them a potentially more valuable asset than any of the others in consideration.

The other interesting topic Christopher addressed is the fate of the rivalry between Xavier and Dayton, which is on hiatus for the first time in 68 years this upcoming season now that the Musketeers are in the Big East. Christopher said Xavier and Dayon will not play one-another during the 2014-15 season either due to scheduling conflicts, but that the Musketeers remain open to an annual non-conference game after that should the two programs not wind up in the same league.

"I'd be disappointed personally if that's a game that went away longterm," Christopher said.

Dayton coach Archie Miller told Yahoo Sports in June he's optimistic the two schools will start a series in the near future, adding, "We hope there is a future and I think they are open to it as well."

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