NEW YORK – First things first: the Big East Conference, stretching four time zones from the East Coast to the West Coast, is not undergoing a name change.
It will remain the Big East.
It will, however, look much, much different.
On Wednesday, the league announced that Boise State, San Diego State, Houston, SMU and UCF would join the league in 2013. Boise State and San Diego State as football-only members and Houston, SMU and UCF as all-sport members.
And even with the addition of those five schools, Big East commissioner John Marinatto said the league has no plans to allow West Virginia (to the Big 12) and Syracuse and Pittsburgh (to the ACC) to leave before June 30, 2014, as required by conference by-laws.
“The additions that we're making today have no impact whatsoever in regard to our commitment and our belief that our schools that are leaving would fulfill the 27‑month requirement clause that's currently in our bylaws,” Marinatto said. “The bylaws are the bylaws are the bylaws. They represent the agreements between the conference schools. I think there's an understanding amongst all of our schools that an early departure and a violation of those bylaws would do damage to the schools that are remaining. As a result, two of our schools have indicated that they respect that process and they understand it.”
Those two schools are Syracuse and Pittsburgh. West Virginia, however, has filed a lawsuit to join the Big 12 next season. The Big East also has filed a lawsuit to make West Virginia honor the exit agreement until 2014.
West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck told CBSSports.com Wednesday that even if the league compromised and allowed the Mountaineers to leave a year early in 2013, their plans are still to join the Big 12 next season.
“That doesn’t change,” Luck told CBSSports.com.
Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross said his school is prepared to honor the 27-month exit agreement, but told CBSSports.com “we’re just open to seeing what happens.”
“They’re starting to put together what the new Big East will look like,” Gross said. “As they go forward to put together new multi-media deals, they’re going to need us to move out of the way. We’re waiting for that.”
Marinatto said that was not the case. So if West Virginia, Pitt and Syracuse must remain in the league through June 30, 2014, that means the Big East in 2013 would consist of at least 13 teams in football and 19 schools in basketball.
Officials at Air Force, which was a target of the Big East as a football-only member, told the Gazette Wednesday, that it would remain in the Mountain West. Navy, however, remains a viable target, but won’t make any decisions this week that would take attention away from Saturday’s Army-Navy game.
The new Big East is certainly bigger than any conference out there. It’s got a bigger footprint than even Bigfoot.
“We've envisioned the premise that we could theoretically on any given Saturday have four kickoffs that don't compete with each other,” Marinatto said. “We think, as I mentioned earlier, that's a very powerful model as we move forward in our upcoming TV negotiations.”
Those will begin in 2012. The Big East first must give ESPN the first opportunity as its currents rights holder and if they don’t reach a deal by November 2012 then the Big East could negotiate with other networks such as Fox or NBC/Comcast.
NCAA President Mark Emmert, without specially mentioning the Big East, discussed schools leaving non-automatic BCS qualifying conferences (such as Boise State, Houston, San Diego State, UCF and SMU) for an automatic qualifying BCS conference such as the Big East.
“There’s a lot of motivation’s going on (with expansion), clearly the BCS automatic qualifying position is driving a lot of this,” Emmert said at the IMG Forum at the Marriott Marquis. “Nobody wants to lose their AQ rights in the BCS and, of course, one of the ironies is the BCS is going to be refined again (in 2014).”
And if there remains BCS AQ conferences at that time, the Big East feels strongly it will remain one.
“Part of our objectives in expansion was to create the best conference we could both on the football side as well as other sports,” Marinatto said. “We recognize obviously the departure of the schools leaving the conference affected us. But we always felt confident that if we made the right moves, we would keep our BCS AQ status and we've done that.”