Sources: Temple in talks with Big East

Updated: February 23, 2012, 11:16 AM ET
By Andrea Adelson | ESPN.com

It appears the Big East Conference might not be finished expanding just yet.

Temple is in talks with the Big East about joining the league as early as 2012, sources confirmed Wednesday. The New York Times first reported on the discussions to add Temple in all sports.

The Big East has been put in a serious bind for the 2012 football season following the departure of West Virginia to the Big 12. With only seven football-playing schools set for the upcoming season, there is a major hole to fill on the conference schedule.

The Big East had been hoping it could persuade Boise State -- scheduled to have its football team join in 2013, with its other sports teams headed to the Western Athletic Conference -- to leave the Mountain West early.

However, the Broncos announced Wednesday that they will remain in the Mountain West for the 2012-13 season. Boise State would have been required to pay steep financial penalties to the Mountain West and WAC otherwise.

"While we have had several discussions with the Big East and the WAC in moving our sports into those two leagues a year earlier than previously stated, the University feels there were too many obstacles to overcome to make the move at this time," Boise State president Bob Kustra said in a statement.

"While there certainly would have been advantages in making the move a year early, it became clear that it would not be fiscally responsible, as all of the expenses associated with early entry into the two conferences would not be covered."

A Temple official said the Owls would not comment. Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon A. Steinbrecher said in a statement Wednesday that his league is "aware that Temple has been in discussions with the Big East regarding membership."

On Thursday, Atlantic 10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade said in a statement: "Temple is a valued member of the A-10. However we are well aware that finding the right home for its FBS football program will drive its future membership decision for all sports. The Atlantic 10 is a large, strong league and I will continue to work with our membership in the best interest of the conference."

In possibly turning to Temple, the Big East would be inviting back a member it kicked out in 2004 because of its underperforming football team. The Owls, however, have had a resurgence as a member of the MAC, making bowl appearances in two of the past three seasons.

The Owls' other sports programs, including men's and women's basketball, are in the Atlantic 10; the men's program would provide a huge boost for the Big East.

But there could be one snag to an immediate deal. Temple's exit provision from the MAC calls for a two-year waiting period and a $2.5 million withdrawal fee. The waiting period was added last spring for both Temple and Massachusetts, its only football-playing members, in a move meant to protect the MAC's interests during changing conference alignment.

A source said that Temple has reached out to the MAC to discuss its exit provisions, adding the league expects the Owls to honor the terms of their agreement.

The Big East has undergone a radical makeover in the past year. TCU and West Virginia bolted for the Big 12, while Pittsburgh and Syracuse are set to join the ACC. Though there has been discussion about both schools possibly leaving for the 2013 season, Pitt athletic director Steve Pederson told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review last week he was unwilling to pay more than the $5 million exit fee to leave the Big East early.

If Pitt and Syracuse adhere to the 27-month waiting period, they would enter the ACC in 2014.

Given the four departures, the Big East has added Boise State and San Diego State as football-only members, along with Central Florida, SMU, Houston and Memphis for 2013. Navy is set to join as a football-only member in 2015.

Andrea Adelson covers the Big East for ESPN.com. Senior men's college basketball writer Andy Katz and The Associated Press contributed to this report.