Philadelphia The Big East is ready to start adding members after spending the last month and a half losing them.
A person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press the Big East will invite Boise State, Navy and Air Force for football only and SMU, Houston and Central Florida for all sports in upcoming days. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the conference was not ready to announce its plan.
Commissioner John Marinatto declined to elaborate on the Big East’s next moves after meeting with the league’s presidents at a Philadelphia hotel Tuesday. He said he expected the targeted schools to accept, but details still must be worked out with each.
“As we’ve learned over the last two months, don’t believe anything anybody tells you. Nothing’s done until it is over. So I’m obviously being very cautious and that’s why I’m reluctant to say names of schools,” he said.
Marinatto did acknowledge the league intends to expand west.
Boise State and Air Force, both in the Mountain West Conference, and SMU and Houston, members of Conference USA, would be in the Big East’s western division, along with Louisville and Cincinnati. Navy, an independent, and UCF, also from CUSA, would be part of the league’s eastern division with Connecticut, South Florida, Rutgers and another school. The league would then likely play a conference championship game.
The Big East has been working on a plan to add those six schools and reconfigure as a 12-team football conference since not long after Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced Sept. 18 they would be leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“We got reaffirmation from our members that that was the way we wanted to go,” Marinatto said. “It was probably a very small part of our meeting today, where they just reaffirmed everything we had been talking about and authorized me to move forward with formal discussions to get this all wrapped up as soon as possible.”
Exactly when was unclear.
“We have not received an invitation from the Big East. However, we understand the things are moving in that direction,” UCF spokesman Grant Heston said.
Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said Tuesday he had not yet heard from any Big East officials.
A couple weeks after the Big East found out about Pitt and Syracuse, TCU announced it was backing out of a commitment to join the league next year and instead accepted an invite to the Big 12.
Then last week West Virginia accepted an invitation to the Big 12, stripping the Big East of its most successful football member in recent years. So even with the six potential new members, the Big East still needs another school to get to 12 for the long term.
Temple and Memphis are being considered, the person with knowledge of the Big East’s decision said.
Marinatto said again that the Big East intends to enforce the league’s 27-month notification period and will hold Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia in the conference until July 2014.
The ACC has said it will not challenge the Big East’s rules, but the Big 12 needs 10 teams to fulfill its television contracts in 2012 and has said it expects West Virginia to replace Missouri and join the league next year.
Even with new members ready to commit, the Big East might not have enough football teams next season without Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia.
According to Conference USA bylaws, UCF, SMU and Houston would not be able to compete in the Big East until 2013.