Deadline set for Big East expansion? Sort of

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The Big East conference is set to renegotiate its first-tier television rights with ESPN — initially rumored to be in the $110-$130 million ballpark annually — during a 60-day period beginning in September, 2012. By that time, conference commissioner John Marinatto hopes to have a definitive number of attractive football members to help the league add value to the sports network.

That’s our goal. We need to [expand] before we go into that discussion, know what it is we are. We have to have an identity. We have to obviously have our membership squared away. And we will,” Marinatto told the Orlando Sentinel. Big East league meetings are currently taking place this week in Ponte Verda Beach, Florida.

Which programs will be part of that possible expansion, as well as exactly when they will come aboard, is still undecided — as it has been since the bold move to add TCU late last year.

“I’m not in a position to talk specifically about any schools,” Marinatto continued. “We won’t make any further comments on that until it’s appropriate… What I can tell you is that we had a more global and general discussion [Monday] both in regard to media rights moving forward as well as potential expansion.”

The speculations as to who the newest members will be — if the Big East does, in fact, move to add one or more members — have been about the only consistent portion of the possible expansion. Villanova, Central Florida, Houston, Memphis, Southern Miss and East Carolina have all had their name tossed around as part of a 10-or-12-team league.

Villanova was extended a formal invitation by the Big East last September, but concerns about the program’s capability to actually house a 1-A program have caused a delay in Villanova’s vote until June.

Recently, South Florida coach Skip Holtz cast his vote for his former employer, East Carolina, although the university itself reportedly has a superiority complex when it comes to possibly adding in-state “rival” Central Florida.