Big East moves toward expansion
Big East officials will vote to increase exit fee to $10 million Monday
Move will clear way for Big East to invite six new schools to conference
League is expected to invite Boise State, Houston, C. Florida, Air Force, Navy, SMU
NEW YORK (AP) The Big East knows which schools it wants to add. Now it's just a matter getting those programs to come aboard.
To help convince some of the candidates - such as Boise State - that Big East will be stable in the long run, the conference has a plan in place to double its exit fee to $10 million.
An official in the Big East told The Associated Press that conference leaders are slated to vote Monday on raising that fee, which will clear the way to invite six new members.
Along with Boise State, which would be invited only to play football in the Big East, the league also wants to invite Air Force and Navy as football-only members and Conference USA members Central Florida, SMU and Houston to join in all sports.
The official, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the league wasn't announcing its plans publicly, said he is confident the league's members are ready to move forward with the plan.
The Big East has only six football members committed to the league beyond this season. The conference would like to get to 12 football schools and split into two divisions, East and West, and play a championship game.
"Everybody realizes there is a window of opportunity here to get these six teams," the official said Saturday.
Boise State and Air Force, currently in the Mountain West Conference, and Navy, an independent in football, have had concerns about the long-term health of a league that has already had several defections in during this latest round of conference realignment.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced last month they will move to the Atlantic Coast Conference, though Big East rules require them to stay in the league for the next two seasons and Marinatto has said he will hold the Panthers and Orange to that. It seems unlikely Pitt and Syracuse will be forced to stay if the Big East can get to 12 football members by 2012.
TCU was slated to join the Big East in 2012, but the Horned Frogs reneged on that commitment and accepted an invitation to the Big 12 last week. TCU is free to go immediately because it was never an official member, but the Big East is expecting to collect a $5 million exit fee.
Trying to recruit new members has been tricky for the Big East because its remaining members have not committed to stay in the league.
Louisville and West Virginia are possible targets for the Big 12 if it needs to replace Missouri - which is pondering a move to the Southeastern Conference - or if it decides to expand back to 12 teams.
Connecticut has interest in joining the ACC if it expands again, and there has been speculation about Rutgers moving, too.
The Big East also has eight members that do not compete in football: Villanova, Georgetown, St. John's, Providence, Seton Hall, Marquette, DePaul and Notre Dame.
The agendas of the football members and the ones that don't play football in the conference have often conflicted. But they came together this week to agree on a plan that they hope will allow the Big East retain its automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series, and the millions in revenue that goes with it, for years to come.
Neither the Mountain West Conference nor Conference USA has an automatic BCS bid, which makes the Big East attractive to Boise State despite being nearly 1,900 miles away from Louisville, the closest current Big East member.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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