SBD/October 26, 2011/Colleges

Big East Denies Meeting Set With MWC, C-USA, Does Meet With Potential New Members

Big East Associate Commissioner/Communications John Paquette said that a report that Big East Commissioner John Marinatto would meet with Conference USA Commissioner Britton Banowsky and Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson today in N.Y. about a merger between the leagues is “inaccurate,” according to Brett McMurphy of CBSSPORTS.com (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/25). In Las Vegas, Mark Anderson reported the three commissioners would meet today "to discuss the formation of one 28- to 32-football team super conference in an effort to gain automatic Bowl Championship Series status.” The MWC and Conference USA “already have agreed to merge by either next year or in 2013.” UNLV AD Jim Livengood also contradicted Paquette's statement in a text message, calling the initial report of the meeting "accurate” (LVRJ.com, 10/25). Livengood said of the potential super conference, “Is it fool-proof? No. But the last thing we should be doing now is sitting back and seeing what might happen next. This is a time to be aggressive. The (Mountain West-Conference USA) merger gives us a fighting chance, and (adding the Big East), if it means automatic BCS qualification, is a no-brainer.” With West Virginia on the verge of leaving the Big East for the Big 12 as the latest news in the conference realignment front, Livengood said, "These are the most unusual times I have ever seen. We have to stop it” (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 10/26).

STILL HOLDING HOPE OF EXPANDING: In N.Y. Pete Thamel writes “while the Big East has appeared to hit rock bottom with the loss of Syracuse, Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Texas Christian, there are still embers of hope.” For the conference to survive, it "needs the conference shakeups to end so it can rebuild.” Big East officials met in DC Sunday “with presidents and athletic directors from the programs that they are interested in courting for their 12-team model.” The Big East “was warmly received, and laid out potential possibilities that included West Virginia leaving.” Those at the meeting included UCF, Houston and SMU, “which will be added for all sports, and Boise State and Navy, which would be added for football only.” Air Force did not attend the meeting, but AD Hans Mueh yesterday said to “absolutely not” read anything into the absence. Thamel reports the “linchpin for expansion is Boise State, whose president, Robert Kustra, said that the automatic BCS qualification was the key to luring the Broncos” (N.Y. TIMES, 10/26). ESPN.com’s Andy Katz cited sources as saying that “as long as the Big East holds onto Louisville, then it will [remain] a viable conference and will be able to add members.” The source said that Conference USA “understands” that UCF, Houston and SMU “are willing to go to the Big East.” The source added that Boise State “remains the key to the Big East’s plans for football expansion,” and even that “might not be enough for the Big East to retain” its automatic BCS bid (ESPN.com, 10/25). Kustra earlier this month said, “Stability in any league is important to us. Certainly we’ve been reading a lot about that issue of stability. That would be one of due diligence issues we’d have to deal with.” In Boise, Brian Murphy notes the Big East “made protecting its status as a BCS automatic qualifying conference its expansion priority.” Kustra said that his “two major objects are AQ status for Boise State’s football program and increased television revenue for the entire athletic program” (IDAHO STATESMAN, 10/26). Houston’s board of trustees “is scheduled to meet Thursday to give Chancellor Renu Khator the authority to determine changes in conference affiliation” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/26).

WVU LEAVING A MAJOR BLOW: In St. Petersburg, Greg Auman writes the news of WVU’s impending departure “is a major blow to the Big East’s future as an automatic-qualifying BCS league, unless the conference can pull off some major coups in filling out a proposed 12-team reincarnation” (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 10/26). In Pittsburgh, Bob Smizik writes the Big East “is dying and no amount of manipulation can save it.” The league was “sent to intensive care by the defections of Syracuse and Pitt in September and is on its death bed by the word yesterday that West Virginia was leaving.” But this was “a long, long time coming” (POST-GAZETTE.com, 10/26). In Philadelphia, Mike Jensen writes if Boise State passes on the Big East, “that may cause Big East basketball schools to decide it is time to forget all this football expansion, that it’s time to go back to the league’s roots as a conference without football” (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/26).

Notre Dame reportedly could remain independent
in football but move other sports to Big 12
WHAT HAPPENS TO NOTRE DAME? ORANGEBLOODS.com’s Chip Brown cited sources as saying that Notre Dame “is seriously considering moving its non-football sports out of the Big East into the Big 12.” The sources said that Notre Dame would “make no official decision or announcement on this matter until after the football season -- most likely in January.” If the school “does make such a move, it is being proposed that the Irish would remain independent in football but begin playing up to six football games against Big 12 competition” (ORANGEBLOODS.com, 10/25). In N.Y., Lenn Robbins cites sources as saying that WVU’s decision to join the Big 12 “has placed greater pressure than ever on Notre Dame to retain its status as an independent in football, because the battered Big East Conference might no longer be a home for its non-revenue sports” (N.Y. POST, 10/26). In Newark, Steve Politi writes Notre Dame “desperately wants to keep its football independence.” But maybe “this is the move that drives it into a conference” (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 10/26). In Dallas, Chuck Carlton writes while Notre Dame being affiliated with the Big 12 “might present problems for the round-robin schedule, a potential benefit may be a scheduling alliance that could see three to four football games against Big 12 opponents.” While Notre Dame's home football games are committed to NBC through '15, the school's road games “could boost the value of the Big 12’s TV package” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/26). In Oklahoma City, Berry Tramel writes of Notre Dame, “Full membership in all sports but football, and a potential scheduling alliance on the gridiron? That would at least lift the Big 12’s status from desperate to quirky.” The Big 12 “could be the solution, so long as the Big 12 goes in with the right attitude” (THE OKLAHOMAN, 10/26). Meanwhile, in Chicago, Teddy Greenstein wrote WVU’s pending move to the Big 12 “could lead the Big Ten to seriously re-examine whether to expand again” (CHICAGOTRIBUNE.com, 10/25).

IRISH EYES COULD SMILE IN THE ACC: In Boston, Mark Blaudschun writes the ACC “has already said that while it has no current plans to go beyond 14 schools, it would not object to increasing to 16 if Notre Dame (in all sports) is part of the package.” The sticking point in that discussion “is the lucrative television contract Notre Dame has with NBC," which has four more seasons on it and pays the school $15M-$16M per year. Preliminary talks “of extending that pact have begun” and Notre Dame officials “also are talking to the ACC about allowing them to maintain their contract for home football games with NBC and still join the ACC in all the other sports.” If ACC officials bend on that issue, Notre Dame “could seriously consider giving up its independent status in football” (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/26).
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