Big East Commissioner John Marinatto declined to specify the names of the schools, or the total number of invites that would go out, but said, “Our goal is to get to a 12-football school model.”
It has been widely reported that Air Force, Boise State and Navy will receive football invites and Houston, SMU and Central Florida will be invited for all sports. Marinatto essentially conceded that UCF would get an invite when he mentioned that UCF and South Florida “are two schools within the same state that obviously have a rivalry going…Those kind of rivalries drive value.”
UCF spokesperson Grant Heston told The Associated Press that no invitation had yet been received, but “We understand things are moving in that direction.”
Marinatto said he expected all invited teams to accept.
“As we’ve learned over the last two months, don’t believe anything anybody tells you,” he said with a smile. “Nothing’s done until it’s over, so I’m obviously being very cautious and that’s why I’m reluctant to say names of schools or anything because nothing is ever over until it’s over.”
As far as a timetable, Marinatto said, “I’m hopeful that over the course of the next week we can wrap some of this up.”
UCF, SMU and Houston would not be able to join the Big East until July 1, 2013, Conference USA spokesperson Courtney Archer said by email. Those schools would also have to pay a $500,000 exit fee and relinquish approximately $6.13 million in TV revenue.
Marinatto said there was no discussion of adding a seventh team to replace West Virginia, which is suing the Big East so it can join the Big 12 immediately.
Syracuse and Pittsburgh previously announced they were leaving the Big East for the ACC. None of those three schools were represented at the meeting because they are not allowed to vote, Marinatto said.
“We didn’t get into the discussion of specifically replacing West Virginia,” Marinatto said.
“It wasn’t the time. This just happened on Friday, and we want to go through a vetting process and make sure that we do what we need to do with all the knowledge and thoughtfulness that needs to be done.”
Temple, Memphis, BYU and Army have all been discussed as potential football replacements down the road.
“The door’s open, we haven’t shut any doors yet,” he said of potentially adding a Philadelphia-area team.
Rutgers and UConn have flirted with the ACC and Louisville has been linked to the Big 12, yet Marinatto said he believed the five current football schools — those three plus South Florida and Cincinnati — would remain loyal to the Big East.
“The people from Louisville, over the last six years, have been unbelievably supportive of the Big East Conference and there’s no single person in that room that I have more respect for than Tom Jurich, the athletic director at Louisville,” Marinatto said of reports that the Big 12 chose West Virginia over Louisville as its 10th member.
Marinatto conceded the Big East was considering a “Western Division” that would theoretically feature Boise State, Air Force, SMU, Houston, Louisville and Cincinnati. The Eastern Division would include Navy, Rutgers, UConn, South Florida, UCF and the school that replaces West Virginia.
He reiterated that it was theoretically possible that the Big East could have as many as 14 football teams next year — the current eight plus the six new schools.
“I haven’t ruled anything out,” he said. “We intend, as I’ve mentioned, to abide by and hold people to our 27-month provision.”
Strictly speaking, he said, Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia are not permitted to leave until June 30, 2014.
That would mean those schools could not begin playing in their new leagues until the 2014 football season and the 2014-15 basketball season.
As far as the West Virginia lawsuit, it takes some personal shots at Marinatto’s purported failure to lead, and Marinatto conceded he was bothered by it.
“I quite frankly was stunned when I heard the news that they were filing a lawsuit,” he said.
He said West Virginia’s belief that it could get out by July 1, 2012 was tantamount to “fantasy football.”
“It’s very difficult to find a football game, for example, for next year in November if someone departs and you have no notice,” he said. “I think it’s fantasy football and they don’t understand that there are ramifications associated with all of these things.’
On the basketball side, he did not rule out further expansion. Memphis and Temple are both supported by Louisville coach Rick Pitino and Notre Dame coach Mike Brey.
“The world keeps changing and the number’s not defined anymore,” Marinatto said.
“I don’t think there is a perfect number. I think we’ve got to do what we need to do.”
Marinatto said he felt no need to satisfy the basketball-only schools so that they wouldn’t consider peeling off and forming a basketball-only league.
“That’s not the objective,” he said. “The objective is simply to enhance our basketball prominence in the wake of losing three very good basketball programs. So if we can expand basketball to enhance that, then that’s our objective.”