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Big East invitations coming 'shortly' after unanimous vote

UCF is among six schools the Big East hopes will help solidify its football future.

The league voted Tuesday in Philadelphia to extend invitations to several schools. The Associated Press reported the Big East is inviting the Knights, Houston and Southern Methodist in all sports and Boise State, Air Force and Navy for football only.

"I will be speaking to representatives of those schools shortly and look forward to announcing with them their acceptance into the Big East," said commissioner John Marinatto, not specifying the schools. "The addition of these members will extend our reach, bring us to exciting new markets, strengthen our status within the BCS and lay the foundation for possible further expansion, all while maintaining the high quality and standards our conference is known for."

The reference to "further expansion" suggests the league may seek a 12th member. After the recent defections of Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia and TCU, the Big East has five members committed to the league in football, including USF. If all six of Tuesday's invitees accept, the league would have 11 members in football.

That would leave one opening to reach the Big East's target of 12 teams, with BYU, Temple and Memphis among the options.

UCF spokesman Grant Heston issued a statement Tuesday, saying the school had not yet received an invitation from the Big East, "however, we understand that things are moving in that direction."

Asked after Tuesday's meeting about the benefits that new conference rivalries would have for a new Big East, Marinatto cited USF-UCF. The teams played from 2005-08, with the Bulls winning all four games.

"The UCF-USF scenario is a good example. Two schools within the same state that obviously have a rivalry going," Marinatto told reporters. "Those kind of rivalries drive value."

According to Conference USA bylaws, UCF, SMU and Houston could not compete in the Big East until 2013, league spokeswoman Courtney Archer said. The schools would have to pay a $500,000 exit fee and give up about $6.13 million in television revenue.

Mountain West bylaws won't stand in the way of Boise State or Air Force leaving immediately, but they would have to relinquish this year's revenue, plus pay either $5 million or double the revenue, whichever is greater. So if Boise State makes the Bowl Championship Series this season — and the Broncos are No. 5 in the BCS ratings — it could cost BSU as much as $21 million to jump to the Big East in 2012.

Navy is an independent in football.

On Friday, UCF's board of trustees voted to give UCF president John Hitt authority to seek a conference shift.

Information from the Orlando Sentinel and Times wires was used in this report.

Big East invitations coming 'shortly' after unanimous vote 11/01/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 10:42pm]

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