A few weeks ago, commissioners from Conference USA and the Mountain West announced that the two conferences would merge into a 22-member, football-only alliance in an effort to protect membership in the ever-shifting world of college football realignment.
However, the Big East had the potential to slim the non-AQ “superconference” down by as many as five members. Just days before the football agreement, the Big East announced its intentions of expanding to 12 members following the losses of Syracuse and Pitt to the ACC; news that TCU would move on to the Big 12 came later that day. Big East commissioner John Marinatto never directly stated which schools were on the expansion list, the rumor mill churned out names such as Air Force, Boise State, Central Florida, Houston, Navy and SMU. A report surfaced last night from the Houston Chronicle that UH was preparing to make a jump to the Big East.
But the biggest hurdle for Big East expansion has come in the form of raising the conference’s exit fees. Big East presidents have unanimously voted to raise the penalty for departing members to $10 million from $5 million, but Marinatto has stated it will do so once it can add new members.
That was before.
Now that it appears all but signed and sealed that West Virginia will leave the Big East for the Big 12, the conference plucking could be shifting in a way that favors the Big East less, and the C-USA/MWC merger more. Andy Katz reports that commissioners of the Mountain West Conference, Conference USA and the Big East Conference will meet in New York to discuss a nation-wide football conference that would consist of anywhere between 28-32 teams.
The ultimate goal of forming the super-duper conference would be to gain admission into the BCS (good luck with that).
Such a move by the Big East likely wouldn’t be an option as long as West Virginia and Louisville were part of the conference, especially the former. But if WVU bolts and Boise State chooses not to join the Big East, the five remaining Big East football schools may not have much of a choice. Katz reports that if Louisville remains a member of the Big East, the possibility remains that the league can survive, although its inclusion in the BCS discussion would in serious jeopardy.
C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said on the teleconference earlier this month that the football-only alliance considered adding more than the 22 teams that currently would make up the alliance. Marinatto stated in his own teleconference that he had no intentions of disbanding the Big East. Obviously, that was before news broke that West Virginia could be the latest to wave goodbye.
You can Bet Marinatto will try with great desperation to do everything he can to keep the Big East alive. Considering it just lost its four best members in the process of sitting on its hands, though, it might be too late.
UPDATED 6:24 p.m. ET: Big East spokesman John Paquette tells CBS Sports that Marinatto WILL NOT meet with commissioners from C-USA and the MWC over joining the football-only league.
Again, it appears Marinatto will fight to keep his conference alive to the bitter end, as if we could expect anything else.