The University of Miami's pursuit of a conference is over, but the search for a football affiliation is just beginning.

The university's Board of Trustees voted 45-0 Wednesday to accept an offer to join the Big East Conference.The move gives the Big East a so-called Big Four - Miami, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Syracuse. They're the only members of the 10-team league that play major college football.

"We think in time the football arrangement we're going to create is going to put us in the position we currently exhibit in basketball," commissioner Mike Tranghese said at a news conference.

Since the Big East does not compete as a conference in football, Miami will remain independent in that sport for now. But the Big Four hope to affiliate with another conference or add other independents in football only.

That could take about five years, Miami athletic director Sam Jankovich said. But he and Tranghese said there's no urgency.

"When you have a nice hand - and with Miami, Pitt, Boston College and Syracuse we have a nice hand - patience is a virtue," Tranghese said.

More urgent was the Big East's desire to land Miami, which has won three national championships in football since 1983.

"To be very blunt with you, our future was at stake," Tranghese said. "If the Big East and the University of Miami could not have gotten together, I'm not certain we had an answer that would have satisfied the football concerns of Pitt, Boston College and Syracuse."

In most other sports, including basketball, Miami will begin to compete in the Big East in 1991-92. The Hurricanes' baseball team, nationally ranked most seasons, will remain independent but will add Big East teams to its home schedule.

Miami sought membership in a conference as a way to invigorate its basketball program, which has averaged less than 3,000 fans at home games since it was resurrected in 1985.

"One of the areas this is going to have a definite impact on is season basketball tickets," Jankovich said. "Buy them now - they're not going to be available for long."

Leonard Hamilton, hired as Miami's basketball coach last spring, said he and Jankovich talked at that time about the possibility of the Hurricanes joining the Big East.

"To say I'm overwhelmed and excited would be somewhat of an understatement," Hamilton said.

Miami also was seeking insurance against a slump in football. Big East revenue last year was $15 million, and Miami's piece of that pie will take pressure off coach Dennis Erickson's team to win a major bowl berth every year.

The school will pay the Big East no entry fee.

Miami's pursuit of a league began earlier this year after the addition of Penn State to the Big Ten sparked nationwide talk of conference realignment. The Southeastern Conference has since added Arkansas and South Carolina, and Florida State last month joined the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Big East and ACC officials are discussing a merger in football, with the champion earning a berth in the Orange Bowl opposite the Big Eight champion. Other Big East options in football include adding independents such as West Virginia or playing crossover games against the Southwest Conference.