Despite losing Syracuse, Pittsburgh and TCU in recent weeks, Big East Commissioner John Marinatto says the league will once again reinvent itself moving forward.
“When the dust settles, we will emerge stronger than ever,” Marinatto said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters.
As part of a comprehensive realignment effort, the Big East unanimously voted to double its exit fee from $5 million to $10 million for football members and move forward toward an expansion plan that allows for 12 football playing members. The increase in exit fee will be triggered as progress is made in signing new members.
Any current schools that opt to leave — UConn, Louisville and West Virginia are among those that have been mentioned — would have to pay the $10 million exit fee.
Marinatto said he envisioned a football championship game in New York City similar to the Big East basketball tournament held each year at Madison Square Garden.
“Ultimately, that’s where we would want to go,” he said of the football championship game.
Marinatto declined to discuss specific target schools, but it has been widely reported that the league has focused on Air Force, Boise State and Navy as football-only members and Houston, SMU and Central Florida for all sports.
Marinatto effectively denied a Houston Chronicle report indicating Houston had already been extended an invitation to join the Big East.
“No invitations have gone out,” he said.
Marinatto said there was no timeframe on adding the new schools.
“Stay tuned,” he said. “We’re working diligently. We’re not going to rush ourselves to meet anyone’s deadline. We have a lot to offer, and we’re going to get this done right.”
Marinatto said he would hold Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the 27-month exit timeline despite the expansion plan, meaning the schools would have to remain through the 2013 football season and the 2013-14 basketball season before jumping to the ACC.
Asked if the league might allow those schools to leave early, he said, “No, we will not.”
He said he could imagine a scenario in which the league had 14 football teams next year, including Syracuse and Pitt.
Marinatto also did not rule out further expansion on the basketball side. Memphis and Temple are among schools with strong basketball program that have been mentioned as potential targets.
“I won’t close the door for further expansion, specifically to enhance the basketball prominence of our league,” he said.
According to a New York Times report, Missouri is on the brink of leaving the Big 12 for the SEC but Marinatto said Missouri’s plans would not necessarily impact the Big 12.
“We’re not going to pause while the Missouri situation resolves because it may not be resolved for a while,” he said.
Missouri’s departure would bring the Big 12 to nine teams and means that league would likely target Louisville and/or West Virginia. Again, Marinatto said he was not overly concerned.
“All 14 of our schools, based on the call we had last night, are excited about an endorsed 12-football team model that we’re advancing,” he said. “All of them also voted to increase the withdrawal fee. And I respect all the people that are on the call and the institutions that are on the table, and I think that we’re dealing with all of them in good faith.”
Despite having only six football teams after Syracuse and Pittsburgh leave, Marinatto said he also believes the Big East will be able to maintain its automatic BCS bid beyond 2013.
“It’s our commitment to meet the standards moving forward to maintain our BCS [AQ],” he said. “We also believe it’s in the best interest of the BCS for the Big East to remain one of the six conferences and contribute to the stability and proven effectiveness and appeal that the BCS offers college football.”
The Big East has a television contract with ESPN that expires after next season. ESPN holds an exclusive negotiating window next September before the Big East can negotiate with other networks next November.
“This league has a long heritage and a great tradition,” Marinatto said. “There will always be quality institutions that want to align themselves with us as we reposition ourselves for our upcoming television negotiations 11 months from now.”