As the current round of conference realignment continues, Big East commissioner John Marinatto recommends fans “stay tuned” as the conference reshapes itself for the long term.
In a media teleconference Tuesday, Marinatto would not name specific schools the conference is targeting as new members, with UCF, Houston, Southern Methodist, Air Force and Boise State reportedly on the verge of being invited into the conference. He also confirmed that no schools have been invited to join the conference at this time.
“I will say, we are very happy with the quality of the schools that have expressed interest,” he said. “There is a lot of speculation that we, simply, will not respond to until we have announcements to make.”
He also confirmed that the remaining football school presidents voted unanimously via teleconference Monday to raise the exit fee from $5 million to $10 million for any school wishing to leave the conference. The new fee will become activated as soon as a new school joins the conference.
“This, of course, is a significant step forward, as well as a positive demonstration and acknowledgement of the continued benefits of being in the Big East conference,” he said. “It also sends a message to those institutions that we would like to talk with about Big East conference membership.”
Marinatto also reiterated that university administrators have approved a plan to expand the Big East to 12 football-playing schools with the idea of a future conference championship game being played in New York City, the same location the Big East men’s basketball champion is decided.
The current round of Big East expansion is motivated in equal parts by football and basketball, he said.
“We fully recognize … that this conference was built initially around basketball,” Marinatto said. “I won’t close the door to further expansion specifically to enhance the basketball prowess of our league.”
“The genesis of this conference was basketball, maybe the evolution of the conference has been football,” he said later. “Our basketball schools have always supported the efforts of our football schools.”
Without specifically naming Boise State, Marinatto said expansion to the Mountain time zone to include a football-only school would provide no additional challenges, with the league already having prepared to expand its geographic footprint to welcome Texas Christian before its departure to the Big 12.
“We didn’t start this conference realignment situation,” he said. “I also think that there’s a right way to expand when it’s necessary and that’s the situation we’re in. When it comes to doing things, we’re going to do it in as open a manner as possible. I don’t think anybody will be blindsided or feel bushwhacked when this process is complete.”
The commissioner also said nationwide realignment is motivated by a single factor.
“Everyone, given the environment we’re in, is looking for the same thing – stability.”