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Big East departures present opportunity

The Big East remains – for now. Big East university presidents and athletic directors discussed the fate of USF’s athletics conference during a meeting Tuesday night.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced Sunday that they were leaving the Big East in 2014 to join the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). In the wake of the shake-up, there will be speculation about the schools replacing the two outgoing ones. The Big East will have to take advantage of the bad situation before there is further loss of confidence among the league’s members.

The departures of Pittsburgh and Syracuse will be a loss for the conference, but this may become advantageous for USF and the Big East. In another decision affecting the current order of the football conferences, the Pac-12 opposed expanding its league to 16 universities, according to The New York Times.

This means that four schools from the Big 12 – Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State – would have to find a different conference to join if they choose to leave. If these schools were willing to move to a western conference, perhaps they would go as far east as the Big East.

They would be in competition with other schools that have reportedly discussed the possibility. Villanova and Temple were mulling over the prospect, according to the Tampa Tribune. According to some reports, the three service academies – Army, Navy and Air Force – are the Big East’s top choices for expansion. The Orlando Sentinel reported that UCF is a possible candidate as well, though its column suggested that UCF should refuse and “flush (the invitation) down the toilet.”

The conference is not set to change until the 2014-15 academic year, so deals determining what schools will join may not be set in stone until Syracuse’s and Pittsburgh’s contracts expire.

Who actually joins is anyone’s guess. The familiar boundaries of college basketball and football remain volatile and uncertain. It will likely come down to who negotiates the right price for the contracts and offers more commitment to the conference.

The stability of the conferences is important to all of the corporations and organizations involved. These conferences are worth millions of dollars. According to The Oracle, the Big East’s contract with ABC/ESPN for media coverage is worth $200 million and doesn’t expire until 2013.

The bargaining power of the Big 12, by comparison, landed it a $480 million contract with ABC/ESPN and a $1.1 billion deal with FOX.

These shake-ups in the conferences could cost the universities involved in the contracts to lose millions of dollars in future negotiations. The Big East must take advantage of the opportunity presented to strengthen its prestige.