- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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It appears as if the Big East is ready to make a move.
ESPN.com's Andy Katz reported late Friday that the league has sent conditional invitations to Houston and SMU in all sports, and Boise State and Air Force in football only. A separate all-sports invitation has been sent to UCF.
According to Katz, if Houston, SMU, Boise State and Air Force all agree to join, then the remaining six football-playing schools will agree to increase the exit fee from $5 million to the $10 million range as a show of commitment to the league. But the remaining football playing schools won't commit to raising the fee unless all four say they will join the Big East.
Houston athletic director Mack Rhoades issued a statement late Friday night saying, "We are aware of the growing speculation regarding conference realignment and do not feel it would be appropriate to comment on the possible intentions of another league. We are flattered to be mentioned as an athletics program of national importance and we are grateful for our strong traditions and the dedication of our fans, alumni, staff and student-athletes.”
Earlier in the day, the Mountain West and Conference USA announced the formation of a football alliance. On a conference call announcing the move, C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said he had been informed by UCF of its discussions with the Big East. But he said he was unaware of any discussions between SMU, Houston and the Big East. Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson confirmed Boise State and Air Force were in discussions with the Big East. All four of those schools participated in the vote to form the new MWC/C-USA alliance.