Big East Takes First Expansion Step

The name will remain the same. Boise State, Central Florida, Houston, San Diego State and Southern Methodist are being added to the roll call but commissioner John Marinatto said Wednesday the name of the conference will still be the Big East.

"We have not contemplated changing the name of the Big East Conference," Marinatto said Wednesday during a teleconference call with media members to formallyannounce the expansion. "If a conference called the Big Ten can have 12 schools, a conference called the Big East can have schools that are not necessarily in the east."

The Big East isn't going global but the conference will cover the nation coast-to-coast starting in 2013. In response to the departure of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, the Big East took a step toward redefining its future and will try to hold on to its automatic qualifier status in the Bowl Championship Series by adding Boise State and San Diego State of the Mountain West for football only.

Houston, SMU and Central Florida were plucked from Conference USA to participate in all sports, including basketball and football.

Geographic factors and long-time rivalries have obviously become victims in this expansion and realignment process. But this was a move of survival. The Big East had to react in a creative way in order to have any type of future in big-time collegiate activities.

"This is just another step in our evolution as we reinvent ourselves for the fourth time in the 32 years by doing something very bold, very unique, that we think will add to the future stability of our conference and create greater flexibility as we move forward," Marinatto said.

The sprawling new conference will cover four different time zones, allowing for an unprecedented Saturday television package that could allow four football games in a "back-to-back-to-back-to-back" programming format, Marinatto said. In the football conference, there will be an East and West divisional format but the breakdown has not been determined.

Marinatto indicated many of the details have not been worked out. The conference is not done with expansion, he said and could grow to 12 or 14 teams in football. There is the dream of a football conference championship, possibly to be held at Yankee Stadium in New York. And there figures to be a prolonged debate over the departure dates for Pitt, Syracuse, and West Virginia – although Marinatto is still holding to the 27-month clause in the conference bylaws.

"The bylaws are the bylaws," Marinatto said.

That creates the possibility of a 2013 season with 13 teams playing football and 19 member schools other sports, including men's and women's basketball.

Before practice at Gampel Pavilion Wednesday, UConn coach Jim Calhoun said he continues to favor the addition of Temple as a member in football and basketball.

"In basketball, I don't think we'll truly replace West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse," Calhoun said. "I'd certainly like to see us get a few more ‘name' basketball schools but I think the football is a pretty good mixture. . . . We'll have enough good people to play.

"I think Temple is a natural. I know Jay [Wright, Villanova coach] doesn't feel that way. But I think that would only help Big East basketball in Philadelphia. I like the Philly, New York, Boston, D.C. [presence] . . . I'll be very interested to see what happens. There's still talk about other things happening."

UConn President Susan Herbst, football coach Paul Pasqualoni and women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma all issued statements regarding the expansion announcement. Notice there isn't any mention of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which UConn officials emphasized as a first option when Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced their moves to the ACC.

STATEMENT FROM PRESIDENT SUSAN HERBST

"The University of Connecticut is thrilled with our five new conference members and with the general direction of the BIG EAST Conference. The conference presidents worked together over the past several months to strengthen the league in ways that bring us new and outstanding colleagues with strong athletic traditions.

"We have no concerns about the geographic expansion necessary to move the BIG EAST forward. We welcome it, in fact, and will work on our schedules to minimize travel costs and ensure success for Husky fans and our school. Since UConn is an international university, we see the geographic expansion of the BIG EAST as a way to showcase our academic excellence in an even more sustained way - far and wide. We look forward to Husky teams playing in different parts of the country, exposing our student-athletes to new regions and new experiences and to broadening our fan base.

"This is a wonderful day, signaling the next chapter in the BIG EAST and UConn is proud to welcome five storied institutions to our exciting conference."

STATEMENT FROM COACH PAUL PASQUALONI

"I am very happy and excited with the five new football teams that are joining the BIG EAST Conference. All of them have enjoyed national prominence in recent years in terms of national rankings and bowl game appearances. They also add and re-enforce geographical areas that we consider key in recruiting. The BIG East is now truly a national conference and that will bring the league great exposure and notoriety. I am grateful to President Susan Herbst and her fellow BIG EAST presidents for ensuring the long term football success of the league."

STATEMENT FROM COACH GENO AURIEMMA

"I am thrilled about the additions the BIG EAST has made. I give a lot of credit to the conference office for putting this together. I am really happy for our football schools and I love Dallas, Houston and Orlando so I look forward to making those trips. The BIG EAST is the best women's basketball conference in the country and it just got better."


UCONN Playbook Top Stories