Before the Big East’s meeting of the league’s presidents and athletic directors in the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York, someone noticed a familiar face in the hotel: Henry Kissinger.
“Someone joked, he should come up here,” Big East commissioner John Marinatto told CBSSports.com.
However, the former Secretary of State wasn’t needed on Tuesday night – three days after the sudden announcement that Pittsburgh and Syracuse would depart the Big East –when the presidents and athletic directors of the seven remaining Big East football-playing schools gathered.
The league “will be aggressive” in replacing Pittsburgh and Syracuse and the Big East will continue talks with Navy and Air Force as football-only members, an official in the meeting told CBSSports.com. On Tuesday, CBSSports.com reported that Big East was in the final stages of adding Navy as a football-only member before Pitt and Syracuse abruptly left for the ACC. Air Force also was expected to come on board.
Marinatto would not discuss specific expansion candidates, but said “there’s no urgency to expand. We don’t need to make a quick decision. We need to make the right decision.”
Another official that attended the meeting said the league’s members made a commitment to work and stay together.
“It went well,” the official said. “I think those schools that thought they were going somewhere now realize they have no where to go.”
There have been multiple reports than UConn and Rutgers are interested in the ACC. The Newark-Star Ledger also reported Rutgers “had discussions” with the Big Ten. West Virginia also hoped to go to the ACC or SEC, but both leagues indicated they were not interested in the Mountaineers, CBSSports.com reported.
“Part of the purpose of the meeting was getting everyone’s commitment,” Marinatto said. “At some point, you have to take people at their word.”
The presidents and athletic directors from Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida, TCU and West Virginia attended the meeting. Marinatto said the membership discussed increasing the withdrawal fee from $5 million.
“I don’t know if there’s a price you can put on for breaking your word and lying,” Marinatto said. “That’s priceless. I don’t know high enough of a figure to charge for being disloyal or untruthful.”
Marinatto also reiterated that the league plans to make Pitt and Syracuse honor the league’s by-laws, which require 27-month notice to withdraw from the league.
“They are with us until June 30, 2014,” Marinatto said. “I think our membership is firm on that. There is no intention of granting [an early] release.”
Marinatto said he was “hurt and disappointed” about Pitt and Syracuse’s decision to leave the league, especially since both schools kept their dealings with the ACC secret until announcing their departure.
“I don’t want to use words that go over the edge,” Marinatto said. “Let’s just say I was very disappointed.”
Representatives from the Big East’s non-football member schools – DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall and Villanova – were not in attendance. The athletic directors of those schools, with exception of Notre Dame, held a one-hour conference call on Monday morning.
“Everyone was frustrated with the way it [Pitt and Syracuse] went down and the fact no one had any idea Syracuse and Pitt were bailing,” said an official from a Big East’s non-football member school.
That individual added that it appears some of the “basketball schools are willing to leave.”
Marinatto, however, said that he held a conference call with the presidents of the non-football members on Monday.
“I went around the horn and asked each one if they were in support of keeping the conference together,” Marinatto said. “Unanimously they said they support what the football schools want us to do.”
Following the football-member schools meeting, the Big East issued a statement:
“Our membership met this evening and we are committed as a conference to recruit top level BCS caliber institutions with strong athletic and academic histories and traditions. We have been approached by a number of such institutions and will pursue all of our options to make the Big East Conference stronger than it has ever been in both basketball and football.”
Rutgers president Richard McCormick would not comment to the Newark-Star Ledger Tuesday night, but said he felt “very good” about the league’s future. “Certainly from our standpoint.”
The president’s next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 2.