Big East confirms upped exit fees, no invites sent yet

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With speculative reporting bouncing off every corner of the Internet the past week or so, the Big East held a teleconference Tuesday afternoon to address potential expansion in the conference.

After a half hour of listening to commissioner John Marinatto answer questions, however, we don’t really know much more than we did coming in, other than listening to the piano version of “Winding Road” while waiting on hold for the call to start makes one seriously contemplate jamming an uncapped Sharpie into one or both ears.

Arguably the biggest news to come out of Marinatto’s half hour with the media involved invitations to potential members.  Specifically, Marinatto said that, contrary to multiple reports — including one last night involving Houston — no official invitations have been sent to any potential members.  That official stance buttresses a New York Post report over the weekend that no invitations will be sent until after the conference’s basketball media days, which will be held Wednesday.  The conference’s concern, and something which Marinatto alluded to during the teleconference, is that the expansion talk will overshadow the bedrock sport of the league.

Marinatto also confirmed reports from Monday night that the conference had unanimously voted to raise the exit fees from its current number of $5 million to $10 million.  The one caveat is that the increase in exit fee will be triggered as progress is made in signing new members.

“This development is a significant step forward, as well as a positive demonstration and acknowledgement of the continued benefits of being in the Big East Conference,” said Marinatto in a statement. “It sends a message to those institutions we are talking to about joining us. In addition, our members have given us their support to move towards a 12-team football model. Each of our member schools is behind this effort, and we are confident we can achieve it.  We hope to have an announcement soon concerning new members.”

On at least two occasions, Marinatto addressed questions concerning the timing of Pittsburgh and Syracuse leaving the Big East for the ACC.  Current conference bylaws state that schools must wait 27 months after notifying the league of its intentions before moving to another league.  Marinatto said both schools will be held to that timeline, even if the conference gets to the 12 members the current expansion plan calls for.  Such a timeline would mean neither school would be able to join their conference until the 2014-2015 academic year.

Finally, Marinatto confirmed that the Big East has undertaken preliminary discussions with several schools regarding potential membership, although he refused to get into any specific names.  In addition to Houston, it’s believed that invitations are forthcoming for UCF and SMU in all sports, and Boise State, Air Force and Navy as football-only members.

Despite Marinatto’s reticence to specifically address which schools are under consideration, it’s believed all six schools mentioned above will receive invitations to join the conference before the end of the work week.