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UCF expected to receive invitation to join Big East in all sports

NEW YORK — The Big East plans to invite UCF as a member to compete in all sports, according to various reports.

UCF is a constant in invitation reports. It's the other Big East invitees that are up in the air.

Boise State, Air Force and Navy will be invited as football-only members, the Associated Press reported, after the Big East doubles the exit fee for current members to $10 million. Invitations could go out next week.

But ESPN reported late Friday that Houston and SMU — like UCF, members of Conference USA — will join the Knights in receiving Big East invites for all sports. Air Force and Boise State will be invited as football-only members, ESPN reported.

The Big East informed Houston, SMU, Air Force and Boise State that if all four agree to join, the remaining schools would agree to an increase in the exit fee from $5 million to the $10 million range to show a commitment to the incoming schools, ESPN said. However, the six remaining football-playing schools — USF, Louisville, Cincinnati, West Virginia, Rutgers and Connecticut — won't commit to raising the fee unless all four commit to joining.

The Big East also is working on a separate deal with Navy, ESPN reported, but the Midshipmen are skeptical of accepting. The Big East was considering adding MAC member Temple, but that is a backup plan now, ESPN said.

Big East commissioner John Marinatto was in Cincinnati on Friday meeting with UCF's president and athletic director. Conferences do not publicly invite new members unless they are confident those invitations will be accepted.

The Big East announced this week it wanted to expand to 12 football schools. Pittsburgh and Syracuse have announced they will leave for the ACC, though Big East rules require them to stay for the next two seasons, and Marinatto has said he will hold the Panthers and Orange to that.

However, that seems unlikely if the league can grow to 12 teams for next season without them.

Big East officials made protecting the league's automatic bid to the Bowl Championship Series their expansion priority. That pushed Boise State, in its first season in the Mountain West after a decade in the WAC, to the top of the Big East's most-wanted list, along with the service academies.

Big East officials believe putting Boise State's record (71-5 since 2006) on their ledger when the BCS reviews which leagues should have automatic bids beyond 2013 should allow the conference to make the cut.

The Mountain West does not have an automatic BCS bid. Nor does Conference USA. Those leagues announced Friday they would "consolidate" their football operations into one megaconference that would probably have 20-24 teams when it gets going in 2013.

C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said the president of UCF took part in his conference's vote and that he and Marinatto have been in contact about UCF.

"I hope UCF will stay," he said. "But if a school feels like it's in a better situation somewhere else, that's okay."

C-USA officials told the Orlando Sentinel the earliest the Knights could leave and begin play elsewhere would be 2013. UCF would have to pay about $7 million in exit fees.

Trying to recruit members has been tricky for the Big East because its remaining members might also be looking for new homes.

Louisville and West Virginia are possible targets for the Big 12 if it needs to replace Missouri, which is pondering a move to the SEC, or decides to expand back to 12 teams. UConn has interest in joining the ACC if it expands again.

Megaconference?

Conference USA and the Mountain West agree to join forces in football beginning in 2013. 5C

UCF expected to receive invitation to join Big East in all sports

10/14/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 15, 2011 1:39am]
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