When the Big East Conference holds its men’s basketball media day at the New York Athletic Club on Wednesday, do not expect commissioner John Marinatto to talk much about expansion.
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A source told the New York Post that the league has not extended any official invitations and will not until the league’s new exit fees are voted on, possibly as soon as Monday.
The league does not want talk of expansion to overshadow the basketball players and coaches, so no invitations will be extended before Wednesday, the source made clear. Basketball is what the Big East was built on, though the rich blood of football money is what will keep it thriving.
The source also said the Post’s Saturday report that the league was confident it would land Boise State and Air Force from the Mountain West and Central Florida, SMU and Houston from Conference USA was on target. Those two conferences announced a mega-football alliance Friday.
But the league already had laid the groundwork to approach some of those programs even before Pittsburgh and Syracuse bolted the Big East for the ACC. When TCU opted for the Big 12 before competing in the Big East, it left Marinatto with just six FBS members.
Marinatto, who for the fourth straight day did not return several calls and text messages from the Post, already had reached an agreement in principle with Navy, which brought Air Force and Boise State into the picture. Navy lost 21-20 on Saturday at Rutgers, another statement the Middies can compete in the Big East.
The source confirmed a Post story last week that the exit fee would be increased from $5 million to $10 million for the six FBS schools. The non-FBS members, none of which has ever left the league, wanted greater financial compensation and assurance that the FBS members would stay put.
Once the exit fees have been voted on and the contracts have been agreed to, invitations will be extended. Central Florida, Houston and SMU will be invited to join in all sports. Boise State, Air Force and Navy will receive football-only invites.
That might finally give the Big East the stability it has been searching for since Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech left the league for the ACC. There will be 12 FBS members and 17 basketball members.
In inviting those programs, the Big East gets a presence in the media markets of Baltimore (Navy), Dallas (SMU), Houston and Orlando (Central Florida). Air Force and Navy bring a national following as well.
Boise State (5-0) is ranked fourth by the Post and has established itself a national power. That gives the league more credence that it deserves to retain its automatic-qualifier status in the Bowl Championship Series, which is why the five programs from the Mountain West/Conference USA merger prefer the Big East.