Big East expansion continues to be a mess
Big East football on Saturday was largely unbearable (again) with games like a 16-10 victory by UConn over South Florida and yet another second-half collapse by Pitt in a 26-14 loss to a very average Utah team; a 21-20 come-from-behind win by Rutgers over Navy was the league’s only redeeming game.
The Big East’s conference expansion woes have been equally, if not more, frustrating than the on-the-field performances. The conference reportedly voted Friday to extend formal invites to Boise State, Air Force, Navy and UCF in either a football-only capacity or as a full-time member, and Temple, SMU and Houston were all in consideration for the final two spots.
Since then, it’s been a complete mess.
Big East presidents have yet to vote on raising exit fees to at least $10 million, a priority that was supposed to have been taken care of Friday and was seen as a trigger for acceptance from the likes of Boise State and Navy. Both programs reportedly had reservations about joining the Big East unless exit fees were raised beyond their current $5 million.
An ESPN report later stated that Navy was very skeptical about joining the conference and that the Big East’s increased exit fees were conditioned on acceptance from Houston, SMU, Boise State and Air Force.
Navy says that’s simply not true.
“We’re still in the running, there’s no question,” said Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk Saturday to the Baltimore Sun. “All the media speculation, there’s no credibility to it... We’re not skeptical about joining.”
One candidate that is on edge teetering on the outside looking in is Temple. The Owls are reportedly being blocked by Villanova and other basketball members as a member of the Big East. Temple was kicked out of the Big East after the 2004 season and was thought to be a potential addition for the league’s new 12-team expansion plans.
So, just to be clear: Villanova, a basketball-only member with no means to move up to 1-A football has, with the help of other basketball-only members with no means to to move up to 1-A football, has successfully blocked Temple. The Philadelphia Inquirer states, though, that Big East basketball members were more open to the idea of bringing in the Philly school as a football-only member.
Speaking of which, what about Boise State? Mountain West athletic director Chris Thompson confirmed on a Friday night conference call over the MWC new “alliance” with Conference USA that Boise State had been in talks with the Big East about joining the conference. Whether they will remains to be seen.
At any rate, Boise and Navy still appear to be on the Big East’s radar. Pete Thamel of the New York Times reports the Big East’s expansion plans include “Air Force, Navy and Boise State as football-only members, as well as Central Florida, Southern Methodist and Houston as full members.”
On the same Friday conference call, Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said UCF was in talks with the Big East as well, but added he was unaware of any talks among Houston, SMU and the Big East.
Invites for new members, whomever they may be, may not come until Monday, the same day as when the conference is expected (again) to vote on exit fees. Big East bylaws state no invitations can be sent until after a 72-hour period from when member presidents are informed of plans to expand and/or restructure.
This delay could be for myriad reasons, but it’s still very possible that Louisville and West Virginia, especially the latter, are holding out as long as possible for an invite from another conference. The Big 12 is currently debating as to whether they would stay at 10 members or expand again to 12. BYU, thought to be off the Big 12’s radar, still remains the biggest obstacle for either of those Big East teams hoping to gain membership into the Big 12.
The official number of Big East football teams could be decided this week. However, the possibility remains very much alive that it will not stay at that number for even the immediate future, even with heightened exit fees.