After weeks of speculation as to how the Big East Conference would respond in the wake of losing three member institutions to other conferences, it appears that it is finally ready to welcome new members.
Down to five football-playing schools following the departures of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference on Sept. 18, and future-member Texas Christian on Oct. 11 and West Virginia on Oct. 28 to the Big 12 Conference, the Big East was in danger of collapsing if it was unable to meet the NCAA requirement of eight members.
Those fears may be in the past now, as reports surfaced Tuesday declaring the Big East has invited six schools to join the conference. Boise State, Air Force and Navy will receive invitations as football-only members, while Central Florida (UCF), Southern Methodist (SMU) and Houston will be invited as members in all sports, according to the Associated Press. USF spokesman Michael Hoad confirmed that President Judy Genshaft was in Philadelphia on Tuesday to meet with the other Big East presidents, where she participated in a unanimous vote in favor of extending the invites.
“My understanding is exactly what they announced, which is that they were adding teams to the Big East Tuesday,” Hoad said. “The Big East elected not to announce which teams they’re asking … The Big East commissioner has asked the presidents not to talk about potential new members until the Big East itself announces. I do not know, myself, when the Big East is announcing.”
Big East commissioner John Marinatto also refused to specifically mention any school that will receive an invite.
“As we’ve learned over the last two months, don’t believe anything anybody tells you. Nothing’s done until it is over,” Marinatto said to the AP. “So I’m obviously being very cautious and that’s why I’m reluctant to say names of schools.”
According to an ESPN report, the three members that would depart Conference USA – Central Florida, Southern Methodist and Houston – to join the Big East would be the first schools to accept an invitation, which is expected to happen “relatively quick,” Hoad said.
The boards of regents and trustees at UCF and Houston authorized their respective university presidents to negotiate a move to a new conference last week. The Idaho State Board of Education will meet Thursday to discuss whether to give Boise State the same permission.
Hoad said that Genshaft and USF Director of Athletics Doug Woolard believe that USF will be in a strong position once this period of conference realignment is finished.
“Everything is shifting and it’s shifting fast, but USF is well-positioned,” Hoad said. “This is a strong collegiate athletics program. It’s a great location in terms of its media market and they believe right now they’re working to strengthen the Big East. Nobody is really worried about USF itself – USF will do well.”