BOSTON — Boston College has tied its football glory to Miami for nearly 20 years, from Doug Flutie's game-winning desperation pass against the Hurricanes in 1984 to the latest dalliance over the expansion of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Those days are through.

Miami is leaving BC behind in the Big East, and the Eagles are now one of the "lead dogs" trying to hold the conference together. First on the agenda: Positioning the league so it can hold its place in the Bowl Championship Series after the current BCS contract expires in 2005.

"It's certainly a setback for our conference, but . . . this is not doom and gloom," athletic director Gene DeFilippo said. "Nobody can predict the future. Nobody could have predicted the last two weeks we had here."

The Big East will have to consider whether to expand to at least eight teams or split up the conference into football schools and basketball schools, each going its separate way.

"The conference has successfully faced challenges in the past," Syracuse chancellor Kenneth Shaw said Monday after Miami joined Virginia Tech in bolting to the ACC. "The Big East is alive and well."

The primary concern for the league right now is its spot in the lucrative BCS. They're safe through 2005 — there's no clause related to league composition that could reopen negotiations, Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese said. But without two of its football powers, the conference could be frozen out of the next BCS — if there is one.

"If we weren't suspect with Miami, we are clearly suspect without Miami and Virginia Tech," Syracuse athletic director Jake Crouthamel said. "Clearly, we are weakened by this."

The conference's football and basketball TV contracts both run four more years, Tranghese said, but they do include clauses that allow the networks to renegotiate if the league's composition changes.

"That's up to our TV partners," he said.

The Big East would have to expand to at least eight teams by 2005 to retain its recognition by the NCAA. Expansion is an especially tricky subject for the Big East after all the complaints about raids by the ACC.