Boise State, San Diego State and BYU have had conversations with Mountain West membership about the possibility of returning to the league, sources told ESPN.
These talks originated after last week's decision in Denver by the BCS commissioners to award an automatic access bowl berth to the highest rated champion to the "Group of Five" conferences. That decision, in essence, put the Mountain West on equal footing as far as playoff access with the Big East starting in 2014.
Sources said Monday those talks are expected to bring on greater significance after Maryland announced it was leaving the ACC for the Big Ten. ESPN reported Rutgers will announce it's also leaving for the Big Ten on Tuesday so the Big East will lose Rutgers and then potentially either UConn or Louisville to the ACC.
With the Big East losing two more schools and having the same playoff access as the Mountain West, Boise State and San Diego State are considering their options. One of the main reasons both schools opted to join the Big East was for more television revenue with the Big East as opposed to the Mountain West.
However, it's unknown how much more the Big East's future media rights will be worth compared to the Mountain West's after losing Rutgers to the Big Ten and another member to the ACC. It's also unknown how much the Mountain West's media rights deal would increase if Boise State, San Diego State or BYU returned to the MWC.
Even though Boise State and San Diego State don't join the Big East until July 1, 2013, the schools would have to pay an exit fee to get out of their contract to join the league. Both schools signed contracts on Dec. 6, 2011 with a $5 million buyout, but that amount was increased to $10 million in January when Navy announced it was joining the league in 2015.
BYU, which left the Mountain West after the 2010 season to become an independent, would have to get out of an eight-year contact with ESPN to rejoin the Mountain West or Big East.
ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz declined comment when asked if ESPN would allow BYU out of its contract.
BYU's deal with ESPN is worth nearly $4 million a year through 2018 with an option for 2019, sources said.
BYU wouldn't be able to earn that much in the Mountain West, but the Cougars could be interested in returning to a conference because it would give greater access to a major bowl berth.
As an independent, BYU would have to finish in the top 10-12 teams in the nation to earn an access bowl berth. However, if the Cougars were in the MWC or Big East, they could get an access berth by being the highest rated champion of the "Group of Five."
The latest conference realignment moves continue to decimate the Big East, which has only one football member remaining from 2003 -- a Temple team that initially was dismissed from the league.
In the past year, the Big East has had six schools -- West Virginia, TCU, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Rutgers -- leave or announce they were leaving the league, with a seventh school expected to go to the ACC to replace Maryland.
Meanwhile, the Mountain West's membership next season will consist of 10 football programs: Air Force, Colorado State, Fresno State, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah State and Wyoming.
Ironically, when the MWC announced last summer it was adding San Jose State and Utah State to replace Boise State and San Diego State, MWC commissioner Craig Thompson said then the league purposely didn't expand past 10 in case the Broncos and Aztecs had a change of heart.
"Our board has determined that we're staying at 10 football-playing institutions," Thompson said in July. "We're going to line up with that formation, but at the same time we'll keep our eyes on the landscape and if there's a need to change, we'll do that."