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Tuesday, October 18, 2011
John Marinatto addresses realignment

By Andrea Adelson

The Big East unanimously voted to double the exit fee to leave the conference to $10 million, and will be triggered when the league adds its first new member.

Commissioner John Marinatto would not go into specifics on teams that have been targeted during a teleconference he held Tuesday afternoon. But he did say the 14 league presidents unanimously agreed to a 12-team model. No invitations have been issued yet, but he did say the Big East had no problem expanding to the Mountain Time Zone (ahem Boise State, Air Force). He also reiterated that Pitt and Syracuse must abide by the 27-month waiting period.

"When the dust settles we will emerge stronger than ever," he said to close his opening remarks.

I know you Big East fans love it when he says that.

Here are his comments on a wide-variety of topics.

What assurances has the Big East been given it will retain its automatic qualifier spot? “It’s our commitment to meet the standards to maintain our BCS Q. It’s in the best interest for the BCS for the Big East to remain one of the six conferences to contribute to the stability the BCS offers college football. We’re named in the agreement and have our automatic BCS spot the next three years. … We have the same assurances that any other team in the country has today."

On a timetable to add teams: “Stay tuned. We’re working diligently. We’re not going to rush ourselves to meet anyone’s deadline. We have a lot to offer and we’re going to get this done right. My hope is once this landscape is resolved, the better it is for all of us. So the sooner the better.”

On how confident he is that all remaining six football teams stay in the Big East:“I recognize fully the realignment picture isn’t settled. We’re prepared to respond to whatever challenges we face on the membership side. One of any number of schools would love the opportunity to join our conference. We’ve taken these hits before and proven ourselves to be creative and resilient. I expect our member schools are committed."

Does an extra $5 million guarantee everybody stays? “I don’t think there’s a magic number that would prevent a school from leaving. You want people to realize the value of your league. You don’t want people to be motivated by a penalty. … I feel confident once we move forward with our new television media rights deal in 11 months that we’ll revisit this question again and deal with it in a more affirmative way."

On raiding other leagues to stay stable: “We didn’t start this conference realignment situation and I also think there’s a right way to expand when necessary. When it comes to doing things, we’re going to do it in as open a manner as possible. I hope new members will be open when they’re departing. I don’t think anybody will be blindsided or feel bushwhacked when this process is complete."

Does the Big East wait until the Missouri situation plays itself out: “The overall landscape is still so unsettled. As I mentioned earlier, we’re prepared to play to our strengths and face whatever challenges we may face in the future but we’re going to move forward in the way membership would like us to. We’re not going to pause while the Missouri situation resolves itself because it may not be resolved for a while.”

What about the Big 12’s potential interest in West Virginia and Louisville? “All 14 of our schools based on the call we had last night are excited about and endorsed the 12-team model that we’re advancing. All of them voted to increase the withdrawal fee. We’re dealing with all of them in good faith.” He later added he has not heard from any conference since TCU left for the Big 12.

If more teams leave, has there been any discussion about dissolving football? “We have not had any of those kinds of discussions within the ranks of our member schools. It’s never come up. We’ve got a solid nucleus right now and we have a plan people are excited about that expands on our strengths and is very creative to allow further flexibility down the road. We’re positioned well and if something happens and we have to adjust we’ll adjust accordingly. But we have a core nucleus in order to create something very special right now."

On a championship game: “Ultimately that would be where we want to go.” He added he would like to have it in New York City.

If new members come on board before Pitt and Syracuse leave, would Big East play with 14 football teams? “I wouldn’t rule that out at all. We’ve modeled a 14-team football division so if that came to that, we would employ that if it was to our membership’s advantage.”