Big East votes to double exit fee

Updated: October 18, 2011, 7:10 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- The Big East wants to expand to 12 football teams -- "the sooner, the better."

The problem is the Big East can't be sure it's done losing members until Missouri, the Big 12 and the Southeastern Conference figure out what their next steps are in the ongoing drama of conference realignment.

"The overall landscape is still very so unsettled," Big East commissioner John Marinatto said Tuesday during a conference call with reporters. "We're not going to pause until the Missouri situation is settled because it might not be settled for a while."

The Big East's presidents unanimously voted Monday night to increase the league's withdrawal fee from $5 million to $10 million when an expansion plan is executed, Marinatto said.

Marinatto declined to talk about specific schools the Big East wants to add, but says the conference has "identified specific teams, and if any one of those teams commits (to joining the league), the exit fee increases."

A source told ESPN.com's Andy Katz recently that the Big East's plan was to send conditional invitations to Houston, Southern Methodist and Central Florida for all sports, and to Air Force and Boise State for football only.

Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told the AP on Tuesday the Big East and the academy have been in contact, but he was unaware of the league's most recent move.

"Certainly a reconfigured Big East with stable core members is something the Naval Academy needs to consider," he said.

Air Force spokesman Troy Garnhart said in an email school officials would not comment.

Gladchuk said the two academies communicate, but will make decisions independently.

"I'm not convinced that it needs to be a package deal," Gladchuk said.

The Houston Chronicle reported Monday night that an invitation to Houston has been extended formally.

However, Marinatto said Tuesday that no invitations have gone out, and he could not give a timetable for when the Big East hopes to complete its expansion work.

"Stay tuned, we're working diligently," he said. "We're not going to rush ourselves. The sooner the better."

The Big East currently has six football members committed to the conference beyond this season, and eight schools that do not compete in the league in football, including Notre Dame.

Pittsburgh and Syracuse have accepted invitations to join the Atlantic Coast Conference. TCU, which was scheduled to join the Big East in 2012, instead will join the Big 12.

We're not going to pause until the Missouri situation is settled because it might not be settled for a while.

-- Big East commissioner John Marinatto

And the Big East is still in danger of losing members. Officials from Boise State, Air Force and Navy have all expressed concerns about that.

Marinatto said the current Big East members are operating in "good faith" with one another.

"The exit fee is a sign of stability, but it's not the only thing we're looking at," he said. "Everyone, given the environment that we're all in, is looking for one thing: stability."

The league made protecting its status as an automatic qualifier in the Bowl Championship Series a priority, and adding Boise State is the linchpin to that plan. Losing such status would cost the conference millions of dollars.

"We're designing a plan that would include schools that would help us to do that," Marinatto said.

The current BCS contract locks in the Big East's BCS bid for this season and the next two, he said.

Marinatto reiterated that the Big East intends to hold Pitt and Syracuse to the league's 27-month notification rule and keep those schools in the Big East for the next two years.

Also Tuesday:

• Marinatto said he is not opposed to going outside the Big East's geographical boundary of the Central time zone.

• Big East basketball members, including Notre Dame, fully endorse the conference's expansion plans.

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

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