Officials at Houston and SMU have both been contacted by Big East commissioner John Marinatto and have been told the league wants to discuss with them further about joining the league, sources told CBSSports.com.
The Houston Chronicle reported Monday night that Houston had been extended an invitation. However, league sources said no official invitations have been extended to any teams. The Big East also released a statement Saturday that no invitations have been extended.
On Tuesday afternoon, Marinatto held a media teleconference, but would not identify specific schools but did admit he's had preliminary discussions with several schools.
Those schools are Boise State, Navy, Air Force, UCF, Houston and SMU, sources said.Marinatto said he's confident the Big East will remain an automatic qualifying BCS conference when the new cycle begins in 2014 and didn't provide a timetable on adding teams to replace TCU, Pittsburgh and Syracuse.
"Stay tuned," he said. "We're not rushing ourselves to meet anyone's deadline. The sooner, the better."
Marinatto reiterated that the Big East would not allow Pittsburgh or Syracuse to leave the league early and must honor the 27-month exit agreement. Pitt and Syracuse will remain in the Big East through June 30, 2014, meaning the Big East could have a 14-team football league in 2013 if necessary, Marinatto said.A college football industry source indicated the fact the ACC has to wait until then is not a big deal to the league. "It just gives the ACC more time to get organized and get their schedules set," the source said.
On Monday night, the Big East’s presidents and chancellors voted unanimously to increase the league’s exit fee to $10 million, but the increased fee is contingent on either Navy or Air Force joining the league as football only members, sources told CBSSports.com.
Marinatto confirmed the increase in the exit fee, but would not identify the school that would trigger the increased exit fee.
The increased exit fees from $5 million to $10 million for the football schools were something Navy and Air Force wanted before committing to the Big East.
"I don't think anyone will be blindsided or feel bushwhacked when this process is complete," Marinatto said.
Navy, Air Force and Boise State are interested to joining the Big East because of the league's automatic qualifying BCS status, but wanted a bigger financial commitment from the remaining members (Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida and West Virginia).
Sources said 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.
UCF met with Marinatto and other Big East representatives in Cincinnati on Friday. Boise State officials spoke via telephone with the Big East on Thursday.
Marinatto is in the process of scheduling a meeting with Houston and SMU officials in the coming days in New York, sources said.
The Big East wants to get to 12 football teams with the addition of Navy, Air Force and Boise State as football-only members and Houston, SMU and UCF as all-sports members.
However, the Big East still could lose a school if Missouri leaves for the SEC. The New York Times reported Monday night that Missouri’s departure from the Big 12 to the SEC is “inevitable and imminent.” If so, the Big 12 could target either Louisville or West Virginia or even add both teams. BYU also remains an expansion candidate for the Big 12.Marinatto said the Big East would move quickly in expanding and "is not going to pause" and wait on "the Missouri situation."
Marinatto also said he has not been contacted by any other conferences interested in any Big East schools since TCU left for the Big 12. When the league gets to 12 schools, Marinatto said it's a possibility the Big East could hold its football championship game in New York, similar to the Big East basketball tournament.