TAMPA — With each new subtraction and addition in the Big East's ongoing makeover, USF's future looks a little more like its past.
With Rutgers announcing last week it's leaving for the Big Ten and the ACC expected to raid another school shortly, the Big East did its own survival-mode expanding Monday, announcing that Tulane will join the league as an all-sports member in 2014, with East Carolina joining for football only the same year.
It's a move that insulates the league against the next round of realignment, but it gives the new Big East a deja vu feel for USF, as one of seven members from the 11-team 2004 Conference USA lineup that will be part of the Big East a decade later.
"I'm sure they are doing what they feel they need to do to create the strongest Big East conference they can build," said Bulls coach Skip Holtz, who coached in C-USA for five seasons at ECU before coming to USF in 2010.
Tulane brings the nation's No. 53 TV market, New Orleans — three spots lower than Louisville — but very little in recent football success. The Green Wave went 2-11 this year, 2-10 last year, and to find their last winning season, you have to go back to 2002, when they went 8-5. The school plays its home games in the Superdome but should have a 30,000-seat stadium completed in time for its Big East arrival.
"The Big East is a distinguished collection of institutions that will be a wonderful home for Tulane," school president Scott Cowen said Tuesday in a statement. "We look forward to our mutual association and we are delighted to welcome the Big East to the Big Easy!"
East Carolina has had much more success, winning C-USA titles under Holtz in 2008 and 2009; this year's team went 8-4 and 7-1, just missing the league's championship game on a tiebreaker. ECU has unabashedly lobbied to join the league, especially during last year's expansion, and Holtz said he's happy to see the Pirates join the conference.
"I'm excited for them," he said. "It's a good program. They have a great fan base, a great following. There's a lot of good people there. (Athletic director) Terry Holland, I think, is a great leader, like a father figure to me. For the people I know at East Carolina for that program, I'm happy for them. That's been a goal of theirs, something they've worked at extremely hard."
Rutgers is likely to negotiate an exit to join the ACC in 2014, when the latest replacements arrive; the ACC is expected to take another Big East team, most likely Louisville or Connecticut, to replace Maryland, which is leaving for the Big Ten.
To recap your future Big East lineup: USF, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville and Temple are (for now) remaining in the league, with UCF, Houston, SMU and Memphis joining from C-USA next season, as well as Boise State and San Diego State as football-only additions. Navy is on board to join for football in 2015, and the league is expected to add what would likely be a 14th team to come in with Navy.
New commissioner Mike Aresco has moved quickly to keep the Big East with a full lineup of future programming as he works to negotiate a TV deal, one that could provide the financial security and long-term stability it has lacked in recent years. Pittsburgh and Syracuse are off to the ACC after this school year, and West Virginia and TCU joined the Big 12 this past summer.