Big East presidents OK expansion

Updated: October 4, 2011, 10:15 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

WASHINGTON -- The presidents and chancellors of the 14 remaining Big East members and TCU have authorized commissioner John Marinatto to "aggressively pursue discussions" with certain schools interested in joining the league.

The league released a statement after Sunday's meeting at Georgetown University in Washington. The meeting had been scheduled before Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced last month they will leave the conference to join the Atlantic Coast Conference.

A source with knowledge of the meeting told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that the Big East did not issue any invitations Sunday. The source said a number of schools were discussed, including Navy, Army, Air Force, Temple, Central Florida and a new name in SMU, which would be a natural rival with TCU if the Horned Frogs honor the commitment to join the conference in 2012-13. All of these schools except Army and Navy would join the Big East for all sports.

The timing of Pitt and Syracuse's departure was also on the agenda, a source said. Pitt and Syracuse would like to get out for the 2012-13 season. But Marinatto has said he wants to hold the schools to the 27-month departure requirement.

ACC commissioner John Swofford said at the time of adding Pitt and Syracuse that he would honor that time frame. The exit fee is $5 million, but that could always be negotiated up, according to sources, to expedite the departure.

Connecticut still would rather be in the ACC than stay in the Big East if given the choice, a source said. But the Huskies' administration expect that the ACC is in no rush to expand beyond 14 after adding Pitt and Syracuse. The Huskies are prepared for this to drag on for quite some time.

Swofford has said he is comfortable at 14, but not philosophically against 16. The ACC would likely want to add Notre Dame and then Connecticut as a 16th school if it were to add two more schools. But Notre Dame continues to maintain its desire to be an independent in football and keep all its other sports in the Big East.

A Notre Dame source told ESPN.com Tuesday night that the school has not had any discussions with the ACC or any of its members about potentially joining the league.

The original purpose of the meeting was to discuss the conference's upcoming television rights negotiations, but the defections forced expansion onto the agenda.

The Big East says the presidents also are "actively considering changes to the conference's governing bylaws to further solidify the membership of the conference."

Information from ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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