Presidents Authorize Expansion

Big East commissioner John Marinatto has been given authorization to enter into expansion discussions with specific institutions interested in joining the conference.

The presidents and chancellors from the 14 remaining Big East members and TCU, scheduled to join the conference next year, gave that go-ahead Sunday during a meeting at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

The meeting had been called prior to the announcement last month that Syracuse and Pittsburgh would be leaving for the Atlantic Coast Conference. An agenda focused on future TV contract negotiations had to be expanded to tackle the many issues confronting the Big East during this period of realignment.

The Big East issued this statement after the meeting:

"The Presidents voted unanimously to authorize the Commissioner to aggressively pursue discussions with a select number of institutions that have indicated a strong interest in joining the BIG EAST Conference. The Presidents are also actively considering changes to the Conference's governing bylaws to further solidify the membership of the Conference."

UConn President Susan Herbst represented UConn at the meeting, but did not comment to reporters as she left. She referred to the conference statement and did not respond to a question concerning UConn's comment to the Big East, the Hartford Courant reported.

Marinatto did not name the schools that are on the short list for membership application, but it is known that Air Force and Navy are at the top of that list – as football members only. It is possible Temple will be discussed as a full member. Villanova, Central Florida and East Carolina are other possibilities.

The tweaking of the conference bylaws is expected to include an increase in the exit fee for schools leaving the league. Syracuse and Pitt will pay $5 million. If UConn, Rutgers or any other conference members decide to leave in the future, the cost will be significantly larger.

The Big East is expected to stick to the 27-month notice requirement, passed to discourage teams from defecting. That means the conference doesn't have to rush to find replacements for Syracuse and Pitt. But when replacements are found, it is likely the Big East will relax the requirement.

Syracuse and Pitt did not attend the meeting Sunday.

UConn has said it will help the Big East to strengthen itself, but Herbst has also said the school must keep all options open. It is not known if the ACC will expand beyond 14 members and it may be a long time before that decision is made.

If Herbst releases a statement or replies to an e-mail request from, we will update this story.

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