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Big East adds Boise State, SMU and others

By Ralph D. Russo

AP College Football Writer

LAST UPDATED: 07:43 a.m. HST, Dec 08, 2011

NEW YORK >>The new Big East will span four time zones, 3,000 miles from coast to coast and, eventually, have 12 teams.

The beleaguered and ever-changing conference hopes it all adds up to a billion dollar television contract and a spot among the best football leagues in the nation.

The Big East introduced Boise State, San Diego State, Houston, SMU and Central Florida as its newest members, effective 2013.

"The Big East conference is the first truly national college football conference," Commissioner John Marinatto said Wednesday during a teleconference with the university leaders from the five schools. Boise State President Bob Kustra said the announcement was "a significant step forward in the evolution of Boise State University and our football program."

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.

It's been a slow process that began in September, and there is still work to be done.

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.

"We have ambitious plans, and this expansion is a great stride toward reaching them," Marinatto said.

The Big East has also been pursuing Air Force and Navy as football only members, but it seems Air Force is no longer a possibility. Lt. Gen. Mike Gould, the superintendent of the academy, said the school will stay in the Mountain West.

"We belong out West and for now that's where we're going to stay," he told the AP.

Boise State has reportedly worked out a deal to have its other sports teams compete in the Western Athletic Conference, where its football team dominated for 10 seasons. San Diego State is reportedly finalizing a deal to have its other teams compete in the Big West.

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

Marinatto said there have been no discussions with the new members about the possibility of letting the departing members out early. Potentially, that could lead the Big East to have the same eight teams it has now in 2012 and as many as 15 members in 2013.

"I think it's a simple matter of respecting our bylaws," Marinatto said of having lame duck members. "An early departure and a violation of those bylaws would damage the membership."

The Big East was born in 1979 as a northeast basketball conference and in 1991 added football with the inclusion 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 on the verge of extinction.

Instead, it 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 latest 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, where 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.

Marinatto said the additions boost the Big East's potential TV households by more than six percent and up to 28 million. He added that having members in four time zones would allow the league to play four games on a Saturday that don't overlap.

The Big East is hoping that a 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, all of which have signed long-term TV contracts worth more than $1 billion.

"This new footprint is the largest footprint in all of college sports," Marinatto said.

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

"This is a game-changer for us," University of Houston President Renu Khator said. Getting to the BCS has been a particular problem for Boise State. For the second straight season, Boise State went 11-1 and ranked among the top teams in the country but was left out of the marquee bowl games.

"That clearly was one of the reasons that drove us toward this decision," Kustra said.

"So there's no question that we've been frustrated over recent years as to how the BCS has handled those who were not automatic qualifiers. But the time has come for us to deal with what we can control and not worry about the rest. I think it's fair to say that that's the reason why I'm on this teleconference today."

The Big East has an automatic bid to the BCS through the 2013 season. But the future of the BCS is unclear and whether the Big East holds onto its AQ-status, or whether there will even be such a thing after 2013, is unknown.

Meanwhile, the leagues Boise and the rest are leaving behind have already announced in October they would be merging. Conference USA and the Mountain West announced in October they would create a far-flung football league with as many as 22 teams by 2013.


AP Sports Writers Rachel Cohen in New York and Pat Graham in Beaver Creek, Colo., contributed to this report.

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kailua000 wrote:
wow. Bye bye MWC the way UH joined it.
on December 6,2011 | 10:05AM
HazieMae wrote:
Hope San Diego St. puts all its other sports in the Big West. Great baseball rivalry.
on December 6,2011 | 10:15AM
Descartes22 wrote:
glad we're subsidizing the travel costs of wyoming and others. didn't we learn contracts 101 from the mcmackin 5 year debacle. include some caveats - i.e. if the competitive schools that voted us in bolt for greener pastures, all bets on subsidizing the remnants are off. perhaps donovan can audit a business school class as he waits 21 days to accomplish what should be done this week.
on December 6,2011 | 10:29AM
CriticalReader wrote:
UH just keeps on getting caught one step behind the curve. Real important question here: Can UH maintain an FBS football program?
on December 6,2011 | 10:54AM
TB4 wrote:
I think SDSU other sports go to Big West. Not sure about Boise St., probably WAC or back down to Big Sky, Big West don't want them.
on December 6,2011 | 10:56AM
go4it wrote:
Any chance UH can move all of its sports to the Mountain West. I would love to see the basketball team in the same conference as UNLV.
on December 6,2011 | 11:16AM
CartwrightPark wrote:
Me too! Might as well since MWC just lost Boise and SDSU.
on December 7,2011 | 05:29AM
islandsun wrote:
What a mess. UH has to pay to play and pay everybody else to play. Tell me how leaving the WAC is still a good deal.
on December 6,2011 | 11:32AM
cccsdon wrote:
Maybe UH can apply for the Big East I mean they are East of Japan? or they can be in the SEC since they are the most Southern State in the US. Wishful thinking but gee one never knows....
on December 6,2011 | 12:01PM
Bdpapa wrote:
UH is a victim of geography. It would be crazy to think of UH in the Big East or the Big East to invite this team. MWC is our best bet at this time. The WAC is falling fast and at least UH has escaped that catastrophe. It appears the overall college foot ball schemes are falling into large conferences. If UH can rebound and become very competitive there may a turn in sight, maybe 5 years from now. Who knows, UH may become a member of the PAC 40, Aloha Division!
on December 6,2011 | 01:24PM
hon2255 wrote:
The WAC ,new lineup is crappy at best, MWC would be best for us in football and Men's basketball , strength of teams for BB would be better for our program, poss Commish Thompson can relent some on travel assistance since this conference has changed a lot since we gained membership, look for Utah st and San Jose to join the Mtn West next. not much else out there to grab.
on December 6,2011 | 02:14PM
warriorrebel wrote:
UH should've stayed put in the WAC, now that the MWC is just as bad as the WAC. UH will be bleeding money for years because we have to pay for travel costs and we didn't have to in the WAC. Everyone keeps commenting about following the Boise formula, but Hawaii was too impatient. Should've stayed WAC dominated for free, win titles consistently and wait for Big 12 or Pac 12 expansion-that's the Boise formula. Be a consistent winner then jump to a bigger confrence. Unless UH goes undefeated the next 5 yrs and competes evenly in BCS bowl games. I think we just put a nail in the coffin of the fooball program. I guess there's a possibilty of DII.
on December 6,2011 | 02:32PM
Manapua_Man wrote:
With Sacramento St, U of Denver, U of Seattle, Louisiana-Monroe added, the WAC will end up a non-football conference. Staying in the WAC would have been the worst case scenario... unless you are in favor of UH dropping football.
on December 6,2011 | 04:04PM
peanut wrote:
I for one am glad that we are leaving the Boise alumni Benson at the helm WAC. Since the WAC was always and continues to be Boise's b!tch. Yeah good luck for your football team seeking greener pastures and we'll take your other DII level sports that no one else wants.
on December 6,2011 | 07:14PM
warriorrebel wrote:
UH football will be dropped if we have to pay to play in MWC. In the WAC we didn't have to pay. The only way UH will keep its head above water is to go undefeated for the next 5 yrs in the MWC and get into BCS bowl games. Every losing or .500 season in MWC will equal to more money lost for UH, because of the "pay to play" rule in the MWC. In the WAC Hawaii could survive a couple of down seasons because there is no, "pay to play" rule, period!!!!! UH is stuck in a losing situation.
on December 9,2011 | 02:22PM
localboieastside wrote:
I have a feeling that Boise St. is trying to avoid Hawaii, Fresno and Nevada, It's true we are riding on the coat tails of Boise St. and they want no part of us lately. MWC lost a lot of its validity after Boise St. leaves. The Big East saw something in SMU program to be invited. SMU is gaining respectability while Hawaii is trying to find its identlty.
on December 6,2011 | 02:34PM
squidman22 wrote:
Boy, Hawaii really goofed again huh.
on December 6,2011 | 02:51PM
nj24 wrote:
That's why the agreement with the MWC that UH has to pay should be re-negotiated. The conference is a shell of what it was. It's not WAC 2.
on December 6,2011 | 04:03PM
Billyther wrote:
Sure makes it harder to teach kids geography. None of the schools are anywhere near the "Big East". Where are all the Big East teams going? A bit like the kids in Alaska who thought Alaska and Hawaii were side by side in the Gulf of Mexico because that's where they were on the newsmap on the TV.
on December 6,2011 | 04:04PM
nj24 wrote:
What Hawaii needs to do is WIN and dominate the conference. That's what Boise State and TCU did and now they are desirable schools that AQ conference want them. Stop griping and start Winning. If Hawaii thinks PAC-12 will call on them we are mistaken. If they had the choice they would take Boise State before Hawaii. Boise didn't just dominate football they won the WAC presidents cup or was second every year. That's what Hawaii needs to do. Not in Volleyball but in all sports.
on December 6,2011 | 04:08PM
UHFAN1984 wrote:
What are you folks worried about I'm sure with all their College degrees and education that the UH administration saw to it that if the big boys of the Mountain West moved UH wouldn't have to pay as much or nothing for the travel payment plan for the visiting teams right and that any NEW team that joins the conference UH doesn't have to pay their way too.......Who are we kidding from the top on down they should all be FIRED
on December 6,2011 | 06:26PM
nippy68 wrote:
on December 6,2011 | 07:16PM
Manoa2 wrote:
Except the ones he won in the WAC, like in 2007 when he beat Boise at Aloha Stadium.
on December 6,2011 | 07:35PM
64hoo wrote:
let them schools go maybe there might be hope for the rest of the mountain west conference and conference usa joining together to make a super conference and maybe be a bcs conference where they can add another bcs bowl game. what a great idea.
on December 6,2011 | 09:10PM
CartwrightPark wrote:
What the heck? They shold call themselves the Big East Conference of the Pacific North and South West?
on December 7,2011 | 05:29AM
Anonymous wrote:
I hope the MWC tells Boise and SDS to find another league for their other sports.....
on December 7,2011 | 05:42PM
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