The Big East Conference officially welcomed the University of Memphis on Wednesday morning, the seventh school to join the conference in the current round of expansion. The Tigers will officially become members in summer of 2013.
The addition of Memphis furthers shifts the Big East’s geographic footprint away from the eastern seaboard and helps create a western division that could potentially include Boise State, San Diego State, Houston and Southern Methodist, among others, once the conference reaches 12 football-playing members in 2015.
“As we noted since December, the Big East Conference and its football imprint will soon stretch from coasttocoast,” Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said. “We’ve worked very hard to add new members on both the East Coast and the West Coast to create a unique membership model that spans all four time zones and to almost 32 million American households.”
Even prior to Memphis’ addition, the Big East boasted the eventual ability to host four consecutive conference games in all four continental time zones.
The other potential addition that was reportedly under consideration, Temple University in Philadelphia, wasn’t chosen because of its location, Marinatto said.
“We needed a school that would fit into that West Division,” he said. “Geographically, (Memphis) is located in the heart of our conference, in the heartland of America. All of those things were contributing factors in us determining, ultimately, that this was the best decision to make.”
USF President Judy Genshaft, who also serves as the chair of the Big East Board of Presidents, hailed Memphis’arrival as a signal that a championship football game is on the horizon.
“(The) announcement to invite the University of Memphis will allow us to achieve our goal of hosting a conference football championship game in the very near future,” she said.
The championship game will take place in 2015, once the Naval Academy begins play in the conference, with Marinatto
previously stating his desire to hold it in New York City, potentially at Yankee Stadium.
For now, it appears that expansion is complete, though Marinatto said “never say never.”
What is unclear is how soon departing schools West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse will be allowed to exit the conference.
The Mountaineers had expected to play seven Big East games in 2012, but would play eight if competing in the Big 12 next season, meaning they would need to drop a conference game. They did that last week, paying a buyout clause to Florida State to eliminate their game against the Seminoles next season, leading most to believe the Mountaineers have played their last Big East football game.