Marinatto Confirms Plans for Expansion to 12

In an attempt to keep basketball media days focused on basketball, Big East commissioner John Marinatto held a conference call today to discuss the latest on conference expansion. Marinatto confirmed's and others' reports regarding the raise to a $10 million exit fee. Marinatto also discussed the conference's BCS bid and timeframe for expansion to a 12-team football league.

Though Big East commissioner John Marinatto stated that no invitations have gone out, the Big East conference is ready to expand to a 12-team football league, he said today on a conference call with the media.

Losing Pittsburgh and Syracuse dropped the football membership to just six schools for the future, but Marinatto is confident that quality teams will want to join the Big East. Marinatto also announced a unanimous vote to double the conference exit fee to $10 million.

"This development is a significant step forward, as well as a positive demonstration and acknowledgement of the continued benefits of being in the Big East Conference," Marinatto said. "It sends a message to those institutions we are talking to about joining us. In addition, our members have given us their support to move towards a 12-team football model. Each of our member schools is behind this effort, and we are confident we can achieve it. We hope to have an announcement soon concerning new members."

Marinatto cannot go into specifics or publicly identify any schools targeted for expansion, but said he is happy with the crop of schools targeted. previously reported that Boise State, Air Force, Navy, SMU, Houston and UCF are the likely targets of the conference according to sources.

The exit fee only increases, Marinatto confirmed, to $10 million if specific schools targeted by the Big East accept invitations to join. Marinatto cannot name specific schools, but sources told those schools are expected to be Navy and Air Force.

Before the exit fee goes up, Big East schools Louisville and West Virginia are potential targets of the Big 12 for further expansion. When asked about concerns over either school leaving, Marinatto said, "All 14 of our schools, I think based on the call we had last night, are excited about an endorsed 12 football team model that we're enhancing. All of them also voted to increase the withdrawal fee. Again, I respect all the people that are on the call and the institutions that are on the table and I think that we're dealing with all of them in good faith."

As far as any surprises in store like Pittsburgh's and Syracuse's departure, Marinatto said, "I don't think anybody will be blindsided or feel bushwhacked when this process is complete."

There is no set timeframe for invitations to go out or for expansion to be completed, Marinatto said, but that the Big East plans to be proactive.

"Stay tuned," Marinatto said. "We're working diligently. I can tell you this. We're not going to rush ourselves to meet anyone's deadline. We have a lot to offer. ...The sooner the better."

The Big East has no qualms with reaching outside the eastern and central time zones for schools, Marinatto said. With contracts in place to keep the league's auto-qualifying bid through 2013, Marinatto said he has not received nor saught assurances beyond that date. He remains confident, however, that the Big East will not lose its automatic BCS bid.

"It's our commitment to meet the standards moving forward to maintain our BCS [qualifying bid]," Marinatto said. "We also believe it's in the best interest of the BCS for the Big East to remain one of the six conferences to contribute to the stability and proven effectiveness of the field that the BCS offers college football."

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