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USF-Big East union to become official

The waiting is over. BE Day has arrived for South Florida.

Months of rumors and speculation, followed by weeks of official meetings and widespread media reports, culminate today with USF's invitation and acceptance into the Big East Conference.

The school has scheduled a ceremony beginning at 2 p.m. at the Marshall Center ballroom. President Judy Genshaft and athletic director Lee Roy Selmon will be among those watching via satellite the proceedings from New York City, where the Big East presidents are meeting.

It will be announced that five Conference USA schools have accepted the Big East's invitations: Cincinnati, Louisville and USF for all sports, Marquette and DePaul as nonfootball members beginning with the 2005-06 season.

The reconfigured Big East will have eight football and 16 basketball members.

This is USF's fourth athletic conference, following the Sun Belt, Metro and C-USA, where USF has competed in most sports since 1995 and in football this season.

"It will raise our ability to raise the level of our whole sports programs," USF board of trustees chairman Dick Beard said Friday after the executive board endorsed USF's Big East membership. "I think the whole package is a great opportunity for the university. It takes us to the next level."

Big East membership is expected to elevate USF's revenue-generating sports, football and men's basketball. The Big East has been looking for new members because Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College are joining the ACC.