Marinatto Confirms Exit Fee, Expansion Plans

Big East commissioner John Marinatto held a conference call today to discuss the latest on conference expansion. Marinatto confirmed the conference will raise the exit fee to $10 million, discussed the conference's AQ BCS bid and the timeframe for expansion to a 12-team football league

The Big East announced its plan to double the exit fee on football schools to $10 million and confirmed an expansion plan to increase to 12 schools for football.

League commissioner John Marinatto discussed the announcements on a conference call with media on Tuesday. Marinatto stated that no invitations have gone out, but the Big East conference is ready to expand to a 12-team football league.

With Pittsburgh and Syracuse leaving the conference with just six schools for the future, Marinatto is confident that quality teams will want to join the Big East.

"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."

As to what schools, Marinatto said he cannot go into specifics or identify any schools targeted for expansion, but said he is happy with the list of schools being targeted. Among the schools speculated as possible targets are Boise State, Air Force, Navy, SMU, Houston, and Central Florida. Air Force, Navy and Boise State would be football-only options according to sources.

The move to 12 football schools would allow the league to hold a conference championship game, which Marinatto speculated could be held in New York.

On the exit fee raise, Marinatto said they've "Identified specific teams, and if any one of those teams commits (to joining the BIG EAST), the exit fee increases to $10 million," but said no invitations have been given to any schools. Marinatto cannot name specific schools, but sources say those schools are expected to be Navy and Air Force.

With Louisville and West Virginia being potential targets of the Big 12 future expansion, 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."

Regarding any other surprises that may come out, Marinatto said, "I don't think anybody will be blindsided or feel bushwhacked when this process is complete."

As to when any developments will happen, Marinatto said there is no set timeframe for invitations to go out or for expansion to be completed, but that the conference plans to be proactive.

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

With contracts in place for the BIG EAST's auto-qualifying bid through 2013, but not after that, Marinatto said he's confident 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 standing," 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."

Marinatto conceded that the expansion of other conferences has put pressure on the Big East to make a move.

"We're not going to rush ourselves to meet anyone's deadline," Marinatto said. "Everyone is looking for the same thing: stability." Marinatto also added "Once the landscape is resolved, it is better for everyone so the sooner the better."

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