Big East presidents agree to look into adding schools to conference


Big East Commissioner John Marinatto met with his schools’ presidents to discuss the possibility of adding schools to the conference. (Stew Milne/Associated Press)
October 2, 2011

The presidents of the Big East Conference member schools met on Sunday afternoon on the campus of Georgetown University, where they voted unanimously to pursue aggressive discussions with other institutions that have substantial interest in joining, according to conference Commissioner John Marinatto.

In the roughly three-hour meeting that was the first among Big East presidents since Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced two weeks ago they would be leaving for the ACC, the remaining schools also weighed modifications to conference bylaws that would provide the Big East with more stability in the wake of those imminent departures.

Marinatto declined to name which schools the conference is considering but said the presidents openly discussed specific institutions. It has been widely reported that Navy and Air Force are near or at the top of the list, and recently Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk confirmed the academy has been in talks with the Big East regarding football-only membership

The meeting held at Healy Hall included Georgetown President John J. DeGioia and the presidents of the 13 other remaining Big East schools as well as Texas Christian Chancellor Victor J. Boschini.

TCU is set to join the Big East next year.

The Big East presidents “all made the commitment that they do want us to move forward as they had earlier with the premise that they want to have a vital and strong conference to have their programs housed in,” Marinatto said following the session that long ago had been scheduled as part of the conference’s regular rotation. “So all of them are committed to that. All of them are committed to, as I said, me reaching out and having more in-depth conversations with several institutions that we’ve identified as being potential new members of the conference.”

In the wake of the stunning news regarding Pittsburgh and Syracuse, the meeting also allowed the remaining Big East schools to reassure one another that they were committed to keeping the conference together during a time of upheaval in the college football landscape.

Bowl Championship Series conferences such as the Pacific-12, the Big Ten and the ACC have expanded recently, and the Big 12 has had to deal with reports that Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and perhaps Texas would be realigning elsewhere.

The overhaul of some of the country’s preeminent football conferences has the Big East examining its standing in that regard. Assuming TCU remains committed to membership, the Big East will have just seven football-playing members once Pittsburgh and Syracuse leave. The requirement for an automatic BCS bowl bid is eight.

Keeping BCS bowl eligibility is of primary concern for the Big East in large part because of the leverage it provides in the next round of negotiations for lucrative television contracts.

Having that assurance, plus more stringent parameters for leaving, would go a long way toward steadying the Big East and thus make remaining in the conference much more compelling. The Big East has a 27-month waiting period for schools that intend to withdraw, as well as a $5 million exit fee.

“Overall I thought that the tone of the meeting was very positive,” Marinatto said. “Our schools for the first time were able to come together. The shock has worn off in terms of what happened two weeks ago today, and people are in a better frame of mind of looking forward as opposed to obviously dealing with the situation we dealt with two Sundays ago.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering multiple beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He also covers Fantasy Football.
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