Amid the still-uncertain picture of college football reshuffling, the Big East took a step toward a stable future Monday night, voting unanimously to double its exit fee to $10 million, a move commissioner John Marinatto said is triggered once a single new school is committed to joining the league in football as it moves toward a 12-team lineup.
"We are excited and we are confident we can achieve it with a mix of schools and markets that honor our history, protect our future and extend our reach and influence as our 14 members remain committed," Marinatto said. "This league has a long heritage and a great tradition, and there will always be quality institutions that want to align themselves with us as we reposition ourselves for our upcoming television negotiations 11 months from now."
Marinatto said no formal invitations have been extended, but several national reports outline the same primary targets: Navy and Air Force as football-only members, with hopes of Boise State joining in the same capacity, and with Conference USA members Central Florida, Houston and Southern Methodist as the first options to join as all-sports members. Such a lineup would have 12 teams in football and 17 in basketball, but Marinatto said he isn't under an urgent timetable.
"We recognize there are a lot of moving pieces," said Marinatto, who declined to name specific schools being targeted. "I will say we are very happy with the quality of the schools that have expressed interest. … When the dust settles, we will emerge stronger than ever."
The league's football future could still be threatened if Missouri leaves the Big 12 for the SEC, because the Big 12 could in turn expand by poaching schools like West Virginia and Louisville from the Big East.
Marinatto reiterated that he will require Pittsburgh and Syracuse, committed to join the ACC, to honor a 27-month notice before leaving, but it's possible that stance is to leverage a higher exit fee for a quicker exit. He said that a 12-team football model would allow for a Big East championship game, which he would like played in New York, as the conference's men's basketball tournament is.