Big East to force Pitt, Syracuse to stay until 2014

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Big East bylaws state that, in addition to paying a $5 million exit fee, a member institution is required to give the conference 27 months notice that they will be leaving for another league.

We thought that timeline was negotiable.  At least in the here and now, it’s very much not.

Speaking to Pete Thamel of the New York Times, Big East commissioner John Marinatto stated unequivocally the his conference will hold Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the 27-month timeline mandated by the league.  Such a stance, if it’s staunchly adhered to, would mean neither school could officially move to the ACC until a couple of months before the start of the 2014 football season.

ACC commissioner John Swofford said, during the media teleconference Sunday announcing Pittsburgh and Syracuse had been accepted into his league, that his conference’s membership would have no issue abiding by the Big East’s bylaws.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that, once the anger over getting poached subsides, the Big East could become “flexible” and allow the two schools to depart earlier than currently permitted, particularly if the Big East is able to add new members in the interim.  There are already rumblings that there could be some type of Big East-Big 12 merger depending on how the Oklahoma-Texas-Oklahoma State-Texas Tech situation plays out; all Marinatto would say on that front is that “we’ve had a number of schools reach out to us about membership.”

He did, though, seem to hint at the merger talk that’s surfaced of late.

“In addition, obviously, the dynamics that are taking place within the college landscape today may create even greater opportunities for the conference to not only survive, but thrive,” the commissioner told the Times.

Despite the Big East’s current stance, both Pittsburgh and Syracuse remain hopeful they will be able to join the ACC in time for the start of the 2012 season.

Marinatto also stated that the current members “are focused on maintaining the current structure of the conference and moving forward.”  Since Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced their move to the ACC, reports have surfaced that UConn and Rutgers are eyeing a move to the same conference — the latter the Big Ten as well — while West Virginia may be angling for the SEC.