PHILADELPHIA (AP) –— 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 says the Big East will invite Boise State, Navy and Air Force for football only and SMU, Houston and Central Florida for all sports.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the conference was not ready to announce which schools its members had voted Tuesday to extend invitations to in the upcoming days.
Commissioner John Marinatto declined to give specifics of the Big East’s plan after meeting with the league’s presidents at a Philadelphia hotel. He did say he expected the targeted schools to accept, but added that there are still details to work out with each institution.
“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.
He did acknowledge the league intends to expand west.
Boise State and Air Force, both currently in the Mountain West Conference, and SMU and Houston, members of Conference USA, would be in the Big East’s western division. Navy and UCF would be part of the league’s eastern division and the Big East would likely play a conference championship game.
“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.
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 on Sept. 18 that they would be leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“We got reaffirmation from our members that that was the way we wanted to go,” he said. “It was probably a very small part of our meeting today, where they just re-affirmed 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.”
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 have 12 football members for the longterm.
“We didn’t get into the discussion of specifically replacing West Virginia,” Marinatto said.
Temple and Memphis are among the schools being considered, the person with knowledge if 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 join the league next year. West Virginia filed a lawsuit on Monday challenging the Big East’s waiting period and asking the court to speed up the school’s divorce from the league.
“I quite frankly was stunned when I heard the news that they were filing a lawsuit,” Marinatto said. “I couldn’t understand under what grounds.”
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