Pitino weighs in on Big 10 expansion

Big 10 expansion appears on the fast-track and the Big East could be seriously impacted in the process. Rick Pitino said Monday that Big East officials must have a plan ready to go if the Big 10 raids the league for new members, and even mentioned one school by name as a possible new addition.

With Big 10 expansion on the fast track, Big East fans and administrators are eagerly waiting to see how the league will be affected by the Big 10's ultimate decision.

There has been heavy speculation in the media that the Big 10 will raid the Big East to expand to 14 or 16 teams. Notre Dame, a Big East member in all sports except football, is believed the Big 10's No. 1 expansion target, but the Irish insist their top priority is maintaining football independence. Reports also indicate that several Big East members, including Rutgers, Pittsburgh and Syracuse are serious Big 10 targets. Big 12 members Missouri and Nebraska also are believed to be candidates.

Louisville coach Rick Pitino, who announced that defending national runner-up Butler will be the Cardinals first opponent in their new 22,000 seat arena – officially named the KFC Yum! Center on Monday – next season, was asked Monday what he thought of a possible Big 10 raid of the Big East.

"I don't really believe [the reports]," Pitino said. "Tom [Jurich] knows more about it than me, but I don't think Syracuse would budge out of the Big East. Maybe Pittsburgh would but I know their basketball people don't want that to happen. If they're going to expand I think they're probably going to make a run at Notre Dame or Missouri."

Rick Pitino says the Big East must be ready to invite UCF, and two other programs, if the Big 10 raids the conference.
Jurich, Louisville's AD, reportedly told the Louisville Courier-Journal Monday that he's bracing for major changes once the Big 10 makes their plan public in the near future. "I'm expecting probably the worst," Jurich said.

A Big 10 raid on the Big East would be bad news for the league's remaining football playing members. While Rick Pitino said the impact of the Big 10's expansion wouldn't be as severe for the basketball program, he nonetheless understands their would be serious ramifications for football. He said the Big East has to be ready immediately to replace any departing teams, specifically naming Central Florida as one possible league replacement.

"Basketball, we don't get as concerned as football," Pitino said. "We have to be pro-active and make sure we have three [replacement] teams. It happened once before to the Big East and they immediately had Louisville, South Florida (and Cincinnati). Right now we've got to be ready for Central Florida and to get two other programs into this equation."

Things could move fast on the expansion front this week. Big 10 commissioner Jim Delany met with league presidents Sunday in Washington D.C. at the American Association of University's meeting to discuss expansion and could inform affected conference commissioners of the Big 10's intent to pursue their members in Phoenix later this week at the BCS meetings.

Big East programs leaving the conference for the Big 10 would have to pay a $5 million penalty and give a 27-month notice of its intentions to depart the league. Reportedly, the Big 10 hopes to begin expanded league play for the 2012-13 season.

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