Big East Reportedly Ready To Offer Invites To Grow Conference To 12 Football Teams
Big East Commissioner John Marinatto yesterday said that "no Big East invitations had been sent to any schools as of Tuesday afternoon," according to Kelly Whiteside of USA TODAY. The conference "would like to add six teams to form a 12-team football league with the addition of Air Force, Navy and Boise State in football only and Central Florida, Southern Methodist and Houston in all sports." Marinatto has been "steadfast about not letting Pittsburgh and Syracuse leave for the" ACC before their 27-month league notification expires. Marinatto said that there "has been no discussion of disbanding the football side of the league if additional teams depart (USA TODAY, 10/19). CBSSPORTS.com's Brett McMurphy cited sources as saying that officials at Houston and SMU "have both been contacted by" Marinatto and have been told the Big East "wants to discuss with them further about joining the league." Sources also indicated that Houston and SMU -- along with UCF -- "are prepared to accept an invitation to join the Big East as all sports members once an official invitation is extended" (CBSSPORTS.com, 10/18). In Dallas, Kate Hairopoulos cites a source as saying that SMU officials -- including AD Steve Orsini and President R. Gerald Turner -- "are expected to meet with Marinatto in New York later this week" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/19). Conference sources indicated yesterday that the Big East is "ready to 'move' on all six targets and invitations could be extended this week." UCF, currently a Conference USA member, "is eager to join and could be the first to receive an invitation" (HARTFORD COURANT, 10/19).
NO TIMELINE: Marinatto yesterday said that he "didn't have a timeline for completing the conference expansion process and the conference would not be rushed into any decisions." Marinatto said that he spoke with the media yesterday to "avoid conference expansion chatter overshadowing Big East basketball media days Wednesday and Thursday" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 10/19). He added that the league is "willing to explore additions from outside of eastern and central time zones and thinks that flexibility is necessary." Marinatto: "I recognize fully the realignment picture isn't settled. We're prepared to respond to whatever challenges we face on the membership side. ... We've taken these hits before and proven ourselves to be creative and resilient. I expect our member schools are committed" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 10/19).
CHAMPIONSHIP IN THE BIG APPLE? BLOOMBERG NEWS' Curtis Eichelberger reports Yankee and MetLife stadiums "would be interested in hosting the Big East Conference's proposed football championship game once the college league expands to 12 members." Marinatto yesterday said that the league "would like to hold a championship game in New York after it adds six football members." Yankees President Randy Levine and New Meadowlands Stadium President & CEO Mark Lamping both said that they "would be amenable to staging the game." Yankee Stadium will host a game between Big East member Rutgers Univ. and Army on Nov. 12. Lamping said, "We’re bullish on college football in the New York market. We have a lot of respect for the Big East conference" (BLOOMBERG NEWS, 10/19).
PROOF OF STABILITY: The Big East yesterday announced that it will "double the exit fee for its FBS members from $5 to $10 million." But in N.Y., Lenn Robbins notes that fee kicks in "only once a new member is added." Until the league extends an invitation, "which it won't do unless certain the recipient will accept, the fee stays at $5 million." Sources indicated that "even if the league's expansion plan of [bringing] in Air Force, Boise, Central Florida, Navy, Houston and SMU is executed, both Louisville and West Virginia still would leave for a spot in the Big 12." Robbins notes BYU, Louisville and West Virginia, "in that order, are on the Big 12's radar" (N.Y. POST, 10/19). In N.Y., Pete Thamel writes, "Everything hinges on how the Big 12 reacts after Missouri’s expected move" to the SEC. The Big 12 "will not sit at nine teams, and will consider growing to 10 or 12." That would "leave Marinatto hoping that the Big East does not get raided again." Louisville and West Virginia are "prime Big 12 targets," and losing both "could be fatal for the league, as it would then be down to four football programs." Thamel: "The Big East has a chicken-egg conundrum: it needs to add new members to show stability, but some of the potential new members say they need it to show stability before they will join" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/19).