Nationally ranked Boise State and Houston along with SMU and UCF could be added as Big East members by Friday, college football industry sources told CBSSports.com.
On Tuesday in Philadelphia, the Big East’s presidents and chancellors authorized league commissioner John Marinatto to issue invitations to those schools – along with Navy and Air Force – sources said.
However, Boise State, Houston, SMU and UCF prefer to be announced as league members together and must wait until Boise State’s board meeting on Thursday. There have been no “official invitations” extended to the schools, but Marinatto has been in constant contact and spoke to representatives of all six schools after Tuesday’s meeting.
Boise State would join as a football-only member, while UCF, SMU and Houston would join as all-sport members beginning in 2013.
Following Tuesday's Big East meeting in Philadelphia, representatives from those four schools – plus Navy – held a conference call. All four schools are “100 percent” on board in joining together with the only possible hang-up being Boise State finding a conference home for its Olympic sports – most likely the WAC or West Coast Conference.
Navy has told the other schools on Tuesday's call it “is definitely in” and Air Force is expected to join once Navy commits to the Big East, a source said.
On Oct. 23 in Washington D.C. Marinatto met with representatives from Boise State, Houston, SMU, Navy and UCF. Since then representatives from the general counsels at Boise State, UCF, Houston and SMU have been working together in concert to negotiate several details, including entrance and exit fees upon joining the Big East.
TCU’s entrance fee to join the Big East was $2.5 million and the new members’ entrance fee is expected to be the same. However, the schools actually don’t pay that amount up front – it’s usually taken out of league revenues over a five-year period.
The addition of those four schools will help offset the recent announced departures of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the ACC and TCU and West Virginia to the Big 12.
TCU, which left the Big East before ever playing in the league, will join the Big 12 next season. Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia can not leave before July 1, 2014. However, West Virginia filed a lawsuit against the Big East on Monday so that the Mountaineers could join the Big 12 next year and would not have to honor the league’s 27-month requirement before leaving.
The league’s presidents and chancellors discussed West Virginia’s lawsuit during Tuesday’s meeting in Philadelphia.
“In light of the lawsuit filed by West Virginia yesterday, the Presidents also discussed and confirmed our continuing commitment to enforce the Conference’s 27-month notification period for schools choosing to leave,” Marinatto said in a statement. “The Conference believes these claims to be wholly without merit and will explore all its legal options to protect its interests and to ensure that West Virginia lives up to its obligations.”
Bringing Boise State on board would help the Big East’s bid to retain status as an automatic qualifying BCS conference, when the new cycle begins in 2014. Since 2006, the Broncos are 68-5 with two undefeated seasons. Boise State (7-0) is ranked No. 5 in this week’s BCS standings, while Houston (7-0) is No. 13.
The addition of Boise State, Houston, SMU, UCF, Navy and Air Force would give the Big East 11 football schools in 2014. The Western contingent of schools also is pushing to bring BYU in as the Big East’s 12th-football playing member. If the Cougars, who are currently an independent, are not interested, Temple is the leading candidate as the league’s 12th member, sources said.
However, the league’s presidents on Tuesday did not officially discuss any candidates beyond Boise State, Houston, Navy, UCF, Air Force and SMU, a source said.
If Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia must stay in the Big East until 2014, the league would have 15 football members in 2013 – Cincinnati, UConn, Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida, Boise State, Houston, SMU, UCF, Air Force, Navy, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and BYU/Temple.
In 2014, a 12-team Big East likely would be split into one of the following two six-team divisions based on BYU or Temple joining.
If BYU joins: West – Boise State, Air Force, BYU, Houston, SMU and Louisville; East – Cincinnati, UConn, Rutgers, South Florida, UCF and Navy.
If Temple joins: West – Boise State, Air Force, Houston, SMU, Louisville and Cincinnati; East – UConn, Rutgers, South Florida, UCF, Navy and Temple.