Big East announces 5 new schools

Updated: December 7, 2011, 6:20 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- The Big East announced five new members Wednesday, including Boise State.

The conference said in a release Wednesday that commissioner John Marinatto would be joined on a teleconference to address conference membership by the university leaders from Boise State, San Diego State, Houston, SMU and Central Florida.

The league said in a statement that those five schools are joining the conference in 2013.

South Florida president Judy Genshaft, the chairwoman of the Big East executive committee, also will be on the 5 p.m. ET call with reporters.

The additions also give the league members in all four continental U.S. time zones. But despite that, the Big East is not expected to consider a name change, because of the brand equity it has already established, sources told ESPN's Joe Schad.

The ultimate goal for the Big East is to get to 12 teams with an East-West divisional structure. Until that happens, the Big East will not have divisions.

The Big East, depleted by the planned departures of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia, is trying to rebuild as a 12-team football conference with a western division.

Boise State and San Diego State, which currently play in the Mountain West Conference, will join the Big East only for football. Houston, SMU and UCF will be leaving Conference USA and joining the Big East in all sports.

Boise State and San Diego State will place the rest of their athletic programs in the Western Athletic Conference and Big West, respectively, multiple sources confirmed to ESPN.com's Andy Katz.

The Big East also has been pursuing Air Force and Navy as football-only members, but those schools have yet to commit.

Navy, a football indepedent, has not yet joined as a football-only member, but is expected to do so once some "loose ends" are ironed out, a source told Katz.

But the entry of Air Force and Navy could be delayed until 2014 or 2015 due to scheduling logistics, sources told Schad.

The Big East has only five football members committed to the conference beyond this season: Connecticut, Cincinnati, Louisville, Rutgers and South Florida. It also has seven schools that do not play major college football, and Notre Dame, which competes in the Big East in every sport but football.

Marinatto has pledged to hold Pittsburgh, Syracuse and West Virginia in the conference until 2014, in accordance with the Big East bylaws. West Virginia wants to join the Big 12 in 2012 and has sued the Big East to get an early release. The Big East filed a countersuit to keep West Virginia in the conference.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse intend to join the Atlantic Coast Conference as soon as possible, but are not challenging the Big East's bylaws.

Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross said he expected the Big East might ask his school and Pitt to leave early now.

"They'd need us to move out of the way," said Gross, who was taking part in IMG's Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in Manhattan on Wednesday.

The Big East was born in 1979 as a northeast basketball conference and in 1991 added football with the additions of Miami, Virginia Tech and others.

Maintaining a strong football league has been difficult. Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College left the Big East for the ACC in 2004 and '05, and the league seemed to be on the verge of extinction.

Instead, the league expanded, bringing in Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, DePaul and Marquette.

The additions revitalized the football league for a few years and Big East basketball, with 16 members, has been better than ever.

The newest additions are all about football and television markets. Boise State has been one of the most successful programs in the country over the last decade playing mostly in the Western Athletic Conference before joining the MWC this season. The Broncos are 72-6 over the last five seasons with two BCS victories.

Houston has been to a bowl game six of the last seven seasons, and is in the 10th-largest television market in the country, according to Nielsen. San Diego State, UCF and SMU have all been on the upswing on the field in recent years. Just as importantly, Dallas, were SMU is located, is the fifth-largest TV market. Orlando, where UCF is located, is in the 19th-largest, and San Diego is the 28th-largest.

The Big East is hoping that the combination of success on the field and potential viewers will help the league land a new television deal that can keep it relatively competitive with the other power conferences, which have all signed long-term TV contracts worth more than $1 billion.

The five new members are banking on the move to the Big East bringing increased TV revenue, along with better access to the Bowl Championship Series and its multimillion dollar payouts.

Information from ESPN's Joe Schad, ESPN.com's Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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