Big East officials meet to discuss future

Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich met with Big East football officials in New York Tuesday to discuss the league's future in wake of departures by Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC.

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If you're having trouble keeping up with all the conference maneuvering occurring nation-wide, you're not alone.

In the wake of last weekend's surprising departures of Big East members Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC, Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich flew to New York to meet with officials from the remaining Big East football members, including Texas Christian, which is slated to join the league next season.

With the Big East weakened by the losses of Syracuse and Pittsburgh, and the future in doubt as both UConn and Rutgers have been publically lobbying for ACC invitations, Tuesday's meeting was proposed to gauge, "Who's in and Who's out," of the league going forward.

After the meeting, the official word from Big East commissioner is that the remaining members were committed to staying together and rebuilding the league with candidates like Central Florida, Air Force, East Carolina and Navy and Army.

"We are committed as a conference to recruit top level, BCS-caliber institutions with strong athletic and academic histories and traditions," Big East commissioner John Marinatto said. "We have been approached by a number of such institutions and remain committed to pursue all options to make the Big East conference stronger in basketball and football as we have been in our history."

Marinatto indicated that the basketball-only schools are in support of adding schools to rebuild the football league, which now has just six members, 7 including TCU, with the recent departures of Pittsburgh and Syracuse. Marinotto expressed hope that the Big East can bounce back like it did after the defections of Boston College, Virginia Tech and Miami in 2003.

"I think the schools around the table tonight, as well as our basketball schools basically pledged their support to each other in order to allow us to move forward like we did in 2003," Marinatto said. "Our schools basically went around the table and pledged to each other that they are committed to move forward together."

The important question for the Big East members in attendance Tuesday in New York: Is the talk of sticking together sincere or simply until a better opportunity presents itself to individual members? Marinatto said the members discussed increasing the league's $5 million withdrawal fee, but it doesn't appear any action was made to increase the fine.

While the Big East scrambled in New York, major news broke on the other side of the country. Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said that his league won't be expanding to 16 schools, meaning Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech will be staying in the Big 12.

"In light of the widespread speculation about potential scenarios for Conference re-alignment, the Pac-12 Presidents and Chancellors have affirmed their decision to remain a 12-team conference," Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said. "After careful review we have determined that it is in the best interests of our member institutions, student-athletes and fans to remain a 12-team conference. While we have great respect for all of the institutions that have contacted us, and certain expansion proposals were financially attractive, we have a strong conference structure and culture of equality that we are committed to preserve. With new landmark TV agreements and plans to launch our innovative television networks, we are going to focus solely on these great assets, our strong heritage and the bright future in front of us."

Jim Vertuno reported earlier Wednesday morning that Big 12 sources told the Associated Press that Texas and Oklahoma officials will meet in the next few days to negotiate a deal that will keep both teams in the Big 12 five years.

That development coincided with news that a proposed merger of Big 12 and Big East "leftovers" is no longer an option.

What will be the nine-member Big 12's next move? Will they all stick together and seek to expand and strengthen their numbers after losing Nebraska, Colorado and Texas A&M? If so, will current Big East members like Louisville, West Virginia and Cincinnati – three schools that have played in BCS bowl games in the past five years – become top expansion targets for the conference? What about BYU? Will the independent Cougars be an attractive option for the league?

Stay tuned.

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