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Big East adds Memphis

The Big East has acquired the pieces needed to build a coast-to-coast conference with a football title game. Putting them together, though, will take a while.

Wednesday, Memphis officially accepted an invitation for all sports and will join for 2013-14.

"It certainly is a historic day for us," president Shirley Raines said.

Several media outlets reported Temple, which was kicked out of the Big East in 2004, also was considered. But Big East commissioner John Marinatto called Memphis a "perfect fit," citing, among other factors, its geography and market size.

Big East expansion in 2005 came after Boston College, Miami and Virginia Tech left for the ACC. It added USF, Cincinnati and Louisville for all sports and DePaul and Marquette for basketball. This time, it comes with Syracuse and Pittsburgh off to the ACC and West Virginia off to the Big 12.

Under Big East rules, they are forbidden to leave for 27 months — until July 1, 2014. West Virginia sued to leave now. (Syracuse and Pittsburgh have not sued.) Wednesday, CBSSports.com reported they are near a deal in which West Virginia pays at least $20 million to leave now.

The deal is contingent on the Big East finding an eighth member for 2012. If not, the price rises because the remaining teams would have to schedule a 12th game. The Big 12, meanwhile, has given a schedule that includes West Virginia to its TV partners.

Mountaineers athletic director Oliver Luck did not respond to an email seeking comment while Marinatto declined to comment.

There must be 12 teams for a football title game. In December, Boise State and San Diego State of the Mountain West joined for football only and Houston, SMU and Central Florida of C-USA joined for all sports. Like Memphis, they will do so for 2013-14. Last month, Navy joined for football only starting in 2015. That gives the league two division — East and West — of six teams.

"It sounds odd today," Marinatto said. "But five years from now, it will be accepted, and it won't be viewed in the same manner."

For now, Marinatto said, Memphis is the final piece.

"It was our goal to get to 12 football-playing members, and we've done that," he said, adding there won't be a title game until 2015 no matter what happens with Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia "But we're always going to be vigilant and do whatever is in the best interest of the conference."

Meanwhile, CBSSports.com reported C-USA called Temple after the Memphis announcement. It and the Mountain West previously discussed a merger. After the Big East gets its teams, they would have 16 for football (not including Temple) and 15 for all sports (excluding Hawaii).

"Based on my conversations with Marinatto, the Big East has now completed its future membership plan," C-USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said in a statement. "We can now move forward with our plans in a more stable national environment."

Big East adds Memphis 02/08/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 9:11pm]

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