Big East to Expand as Conference USA, Mountain West Announce Merger | Zagsblog
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Thursday / July 7.
  • Big East to Expand as Conference USA, Mountain West Announce Merger

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    On the same day the Big East decided to invite six new football programs into its midst, Conference USA and the Mountain West announced they would create a new super football amalgam of their own.

    After a conference call Friday afternoon, the Big East decided to invite Air Force, Boise State and Navy into the league for football only, and to extend invitations to Central Florida, Houston and SMU for all sports, according to The Boston Globe.

    The league also approved raising the exit fee to $10 million from $5 million, the Globe reported.

    Boise and Air Force could join the Big East — which has an automatic BCS bid — as soon as next season, while UCF, Houston and SMU may wait until 2013, the Globe reported.

    “[Boise and Air Force] both mentioned they were in contact with the Big East, but did not elaborate,” Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson said on a conference call announcing the merger with Conference USA.

    If the new Big East can land Boise, Air Force, Houston and SMU, they would be taking four of the most attractive football programs from the newly merged league.

    Navy is taking a wait-and-see approach based on what Louisville, Cincinnati, West Virginia and the other remaining Big East football schools do.

    “We’ve had extensive discussions with the Big East, and our stance remains the same,” Navy AD Chet Gladchuk told The Capital of Annapolis, Md. “We believe strongly that for the Big East to be a viable conference, the six remaining institutions have got to make a long-term commitment.”

    The Big East could target Temple if Navy opts not to join. Villanova, which shares the Philadelphia market with Temple, blocked Temple’s admission into the new Big East during the conference call, the Globe reported.

    The new Big East schools will be formally invited early next week, and the announcement could come Wednesday at Big East basketball media day at the New. York Athletic Club.

    Meantime, Conference USA and the Mountain West announced their football-only merger into a new 22-team monster that spans five time zones.

    The new league could begin play in 2012 or 2013, with the winners of the two “divisions” playing in a championship game.

    “I don’t think it’s nutty at all,” Thompson said. “It’s proactive. It’s bold in some way. We’re trying to position our members in the best light possible.”

    The new conglomerate does not possess a BCS bid but obviously hopes it will land one after the current BCS deal with ESPN expires following the 2013 season.

    “Who knows whether there will even be a BCS [beyond 2013],” Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said on the call. “There are some folks who believe if you play at the highest level you deserve it, regardless if you’re champion of a particular conference. We will stand up as one champion and speak with one voice and expect our champion to be recognized at the highest level. ”

    The Big East maintains one of the six automatic BCS bids through 2013, but the league was down to six teams following the losses of Syracuse and Pittsburgh (to the ACC) and TCU (to the Big 12).

    “I don’t know what’s left of the Big East right now,” Banowsky said. “I know we’ll have 22 right now and they’re at six. I don’t wish ill on anyone, but I will tell you there is room for everybody in this college football world.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.