Not long ago, the Big EastConference was seemingly on lifesupport. The departures ofPittsburgh and Syracuse to theAtlantic Coast Conference, as wellas Texas Christian and West Virginia to the Big 12 Conference, cast doubt over the long-termviability of the conference.
In November, it addedfive new members. Tuesday,it added another.
In time for the2015 football season, theUnited States Naval Academy will set sail for the Big Eastas a football-only member, its first conference home in the 136-year history of theprogram.
“After careful consideration, we consider this affiliation to be inthe best interests of the NavalAcademy, our athletic programsand our Brigade of Midshipmen,”Vice Adm. Mike Miller,superintendent of the Naval
Academy said. “While ourindependent status has served Navy football well to date, the Big East Conference affiliation willhelp ensure our futurescholar-athletes and athleticprograms remain competitiveat the highest levels for theforeseeable future.”
The addition brings the Big East closer to12 football-playing members,which would allow the conference to start achampionship football game. Navyis the 11th team committedto playing in the conferencefrom 2015 onward.
A growing gap between the “haves and have-nots” in college football helped Navy make thedecision to give up its status asone of four independent footballschools. Its other sports willremain in the Patriot League.
“I think we all recognize thelandscape for Division I footballis changing,” Miller said. “Theseparation between BCS andnon-BCS schools is growing everwider. We look at scheduling, TVand bowl opportunities, and we see a great opportunity to beshared with the Big East.”
While Houston, Southern Methodist, Central Florida, SanDiego State and Boise State willbegin playing Big East footballin 2013, Navy will needadditional time to clear out itsschedule since all games arecontract-based, rather thanswapping eight conference gamesfrom a different conference for eight Big East games.
Navy will continue its rivalrieswith Army, Air Force and NotreDame as non-conference games.
Big East Commissioner JohnMarinatto welcomed Navy, butwas quick to add that expansionis not yet over.
“Please know that ourmembership has worked hard to get to where we are today, but also know that we are not done yet,” he said. “We feel we can get evenstronger and will continue topursue interests from additional
top-notch institutions to furtherenhance our competitivenessin both football and basketball.”
While Marinatto wouldn’t publicly name potentialadditions, the other two serviceacademies are rumored
candidates. Air Force haspreviously turned down the BigEast in favor of remaining in the Mountain West, but may bepersuaded by Navy’s presence.