DALLAS – After taking part in a celebration at SMU for its future membership, Big East commissioner John Marinatto said Thursday the conference’s expansion wouldn’t end with additions coming in 2013.
Marinatto reiterated the conference's wishes to expand to at least 12 football schools, but he would not discuss a timetable or potential schools to be pursued.
“We’re working very hard,” Marinatto said. “I made it a practice over the last year to never discuss institutions specifically by name, so I’m not at liberty to get into specifics, but yeah, we want to get to at least 12 and that’s been our goal. We’re very happy with where we are, but obviously we have a little bit more work to do.”
Marinatto included, for at least 2012, West Virginia in the roll call for the conference. In 2013, Boise State, San Diego State, Houston and Central Florida will join, along with SMU. Whenever West Virginia leaves for the Big 12, an issue that hasn't been resolved, the additions will leave a total of 10 football schools in the Big East.
Marinatto said he participated in the two meetings that concerned the future of the BCS after the national championship football game in New Orleans. He characterized the meetings as “brainstorming sessions” which yielded 50 or 60 ideas of what the future could hold for the BCS system.
There will be another meeting at the end of January and another in February to continue these discussions as part of four meetings scheduled before any new manifestation of the BCS is finalized.
Marinatto believes some changes will be made, but said they will add to the good the BCS has done to college football, in his opinion.
“I think everyone around the table agrees the BCS has helped college football in so many ways,” Marinatto said. “It has made college football relevant and it has given schools that may have not had the opportunity to play in some of the major bowls the opportunity to play in some of the major bowls, but there’s also another side to it, and that’s the discussion. How do we keep what has been put in place, that’s been so helpful to so many, and at the same time reduce some of the negatives that go along with it?”
Losing the conference’s BCS automatic-qualifying status was not a concern of the commissioner, citing the strength of the programs the conference added in this newest phase of realignment, if, of course, automatic qualifying bids remain part of the BCS framework.
The addition of new teams is also a bargaining chip in landing a major TV contract in September of 2012, which Marinatto believes will provide the stability that the conference has lacked over the past year.
“Most of the expansion initiative’s complete, but when that’s done, certainly the glue that will continue to hold us together will be that when we get to the market, we can deliver with the kind of TV agreement similar with what the other five major conferences have, and that’s something we anticipated,” Marinatto said.
The final step in the process once expansion has been finalized for the conference and a TV deal is in place is to discuss the matter of divisions in a conference that will span across the entire country. All teams that will be members of the conference will have a vote in any major decisions such as a TV deal or the formation of divisions.