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Posted: Monday October 24, 2011 5:26PM ; Updated: Monday October 24, 2011 7:51PM

Houston to authorize conference move

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University of Houston regents will meet Thursday and are expected to give the chancellor authority to move the Cougars out of Conference USA to a new league, possibly the Big East.

The regents on Monday scheduled the special meeting to give Chancellor and President Renu Khator the authority to "execute a contract for athletic conference affiliation and to negotiate and provide notice of contract cancellation." The item does not specify a conference destination.

The meeting "is to give our board members an update on conference realignment as it pertains to the University of Houston. There is a great deal of speculation out there and this meeting will allow us to provide our leadership with up-to-date information," Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades said.

Big East Associate Commissioner John Paquette said the league "will continue our stance of not talking about individual institutions throughout the conference realignment process."

The Big East, which has an automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series for its football champion, has been scouring the landscape for new members after Syracuse and Pittsburgh accepted invitations to the Atlantic Coast Conference and TCU, which was scheduled to join in 2012, defected to the Big 12.

Texas state Rep. Garnett Coleman, whose district includes the Houston campus, said getting the Cougars into a BCS conference would be great step for an old Southwest Conference power that got left out the Big 12 when SWC fell apart in the early 1990s.

"It puts (the athletes) on a national stage," Coleman said.

Coleman said if Houston were to move conferences, he expects a deal could be announced within a few days after the regents' meeting Thursday.

With TCU pulling out of the Big East, getting Houston would allow the league to tap into the lucrative Texas media market and one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country.

The Big East's plan to get to 12 members includes Navy, Air Force and Boise State as football-only members and Central Florida, Houston and SMU for all sports, though that has not been made public by the league.

The Big East currently has six football members committed to the conference beyond this season and eight schools that do not compete in the league in football, including Notre Dame.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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