Houston Joins BIG EAST Conference
Dec. 7, 2011
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -
The University of Central Florida, University of Houston and Southern Methodist University have accepted full membership into the BIG EAST while Boise State University and San Diego State University will compete as members in the sport of football. The BIG EAST Conference Board of Directors, by a unanimous vote of its Presidents, extended the invitations for membership. Central Florida, Houston and SMU will begin competing in all BIG EAST-sponsored sports in the 2013-14 academic year, while Boise State and San Diego State will start competing in football in the 2013 season.
"Over the last 32 years, the BIG EAST Conference has constantly evolved along with the landscape of college athletics," said BIG EAST Commissioner John Marinatto. "The inclusion of these five great Universities, which bring a unique blend of premier academics, top markets, strong athletics brands and outstanding competitive quality, marks the beginning of a new chapter in that evolution. We are proud to welcome these schools to the BIG EAST family.
"Much like the conference as a whole, the BIG EAST name -- though derived 32 years ago based on the geography of our founding members -- has evolved into a highly respected brand that transcends borders, boundaries or regions. It's national. Our membership makeup is now reflective of that."
"Over its history, the BIG EAST has changed and adapted as needed to maintain its place and leadership in the world of college athletics. And it has always done so with great respect and reverence for its heritage and legacy," said Judy Genshaft, University of South Florida President and Chair of the Conference Board of Directors. "And so it is today. Boise State, Houston, San Diego State, SMU and UCF are all fine schools that will enhance every aspect of the BIG EAST."
This expansion clearly moves the Conference far beyond its origins in the Northeast. With these five new members, the Conference will continue to have the single largest media footprint in college football, spanning literally from coast to coast and all the major regions in between. In effect, the BIG EAST will be the first truly national college football conference.
"Over its history, the BIG EAST has changed and adapted as needed to maintain its place and leadership in the world of college athletics. And it has always done so with great respect and reverence for its heritage and legacy," said Judy Genshaft, University of South Florida President and Chair of the Conference Board of Directors. "And so it is today. Boise State, Houston, San Diego State, SMU and UCF are all fine schools that will enhance every aspect of the BIG EAST."
The creation of a western division is a bold and innovative step that will provide fans with two distinct divisions in football - East and West - which will produce new rivalries, accommodate further expansion flexibility and, eventually, set the stage for an annual football championship game.
The addition of these five new marketplaces boosts the number of the BIG EAST's potential TV households by more than six percent and up to 28 million.
Four different time zones will also allow the Conference and its television partner the potential to schedule four games on a given Saturday back-to-back-to-back-to-back without any overlap. It is a powerful model and one that will be unmatched by any other conference.
These expansion efforts will create a very unique synergy within the Conference and allow creative football scheduling for the future given that the league will have schools in four different time zones under its auspices.
Central Florida is the second-largest university in the United States with an enrollment of 56,337. Located in Orlando, Fla., UCF was founded in 1963. The Orlando television market is the nation's 19th largest. UCF has been named one of the "50 Best Value Public Universities" by USA Today and the Princeton Review and five of the school's graduate programs rank among the best in America according to U.S. News & World Report.
The Golden Knights compete in 14 men's and women's sports. The UCF football team has won two conference championships in the last five seasons and played in four bowl games over the last six years. Last year, the Golden Knights won the AutoZone Liberty Bowl and finished No. 25 in the final Bowl Championship Series ranking. Going into the 2011-12 academic year, UCF athletic teams have made 86 NCAA Division I team tournament appearances and 92 NCAA Division I individual championship appearances.
Houston, a university with an enrollment of 39,825, was founded in 1927 in Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in the U.S. and the 10th largest television market. The University's student body is the second most ethnically diverse among major research institutions in the U.S., according to U.S. News & World Report.
Twenty-two Houston athletes have competed in the Olympics and have combined to win 39 medals, including 20 gold. The men's basketball program has made five Final Four appearances. The football team has made 20 bowl appearances and won 10 conference championships. This year, the Cougars have enjoyed of their best seasons in history. They finished the regular season with a 12-1 record and a No. 19 ranking in the final BCS standings. One of the top men's golf programs in the nation, the Cougars have captured 16 NCAA titles.
SMU is the only Division I program in Dallas, Texas, the nation's ninth largest city and fifth largest television market. The school has an enrollment of 10,981 and was established in 1911. According to U.S. News & World Report, SMU is the best overall undergraduate college in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. SMU is one of only 77 institutions in the U.S. with an endowment of over $1 billion.
SMU sponsors 17 sports. The Mustangs have been ranked as the top school in their conference for 10 straight years in the Director's Cup overall athletic standings. The men's basketball team has won 14 conference championships and made one Final Four appearance. The men's soccer team has advanced to the NCAA Championship in 16 of the last 18 seasons, including two Final Four appearances. The football team will appear in its third straight bowl game in January at the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.
Boise State is the largest university in Idaho with an enrollment of 19,664. The campus is home of 11 Idaho Professor of the Year honorees since 1990 and the 2011 national champion debate and speech team.
The football program has been one of the nation's best in recent years. Since 2002, the Broncos have won eight conference titles and earned eight top 25 finishes in the national polls, including a top 10 finish in each of the last four seasons. Boise State won the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in 2010 and 2007. The Broncos, who play in Bronco Stadium with its distinctive blue turf, have finished in the top 10 of the BCS standings for the last three years and are ranked No. 7 this week. Off the field, the football program won the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Academic Achievement Award. The Bronco football team had a 100 percent graduation rate for members of its student-athlete class of 2004.
San Diego State is the oldest and largest higher education institution in the San Diego region and fifth largest in California. Founded in 1897, the university has grown to become a nationally ranked research university and has an enrollment of 32,396. Increasingly recognized for innovative research, San Diego State has achieved the prestigious designation of "Research University" with high research activity granted by the Carnegie Foundation. The San Diego market is the 28th largest in the U.S.
The SDSU football program has enjoyed recent success with a 9-4 record in 2010 and a win in the Poinsettia Bowl. This year's team owns an 8-4 mark and will play in the New Orleans Bowl. The Aztecs play their home games at Qualcomm Stadium, the home of the NFL's San Diego Chargers. San Diego State has had 134 players become NFL Draft picks, including 13 since 2004.
The five new schools join Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers and USF as the teams competing in football in the BIG EAST Conference and UCF, Houston and SMU join DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova in all other sports. With the addition of the five new schools, the BIG EAST will have the largest footprint of any college football conference in the nation, with a coast-to-coast presence spanning eight states in five different regions of the country.
December 7, 2011
An interview with:
JOHN PAQUETTE: Thanks, everyone, for joining us on our Big East teleconference. Just let me explain the order of events today.
We'll have some opening remarks from Commissioner John Marinatto, and John will also introduce Judy Genshaft, who is the president of USF and the chair of the Big East CEO Executive Committee. John will also introduce the presidents of our five institutions.
Now I'd like to introduce the Commissioner of the Big East, John Marinatto.
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: I'd like to express my gratitude for everyone's interest in the Big East Conference. Today we are extremely proud to announce the addition of five new members to the Big East, three of which are joining as full members and two of which are coming as football playing members.
We are delighted to formally welcome the University of Central Florida, the University of Houston, and the Southern Methodist University as our full members, and Boise State and San Diego as football playing members. I have with me today the presidents of those five universities.
In addition to Big East Conference CEO Chair and USF president Judy Genshaft, joining me on today's call are Boise State University president Bob Kustra, from Central Florida president John Hitt, from Houston president Renu Khator, from San Diego State president Elliot Hirshman, and from SMU president Gerald Turner.
As John mentioned, each will be making brief remarks of their own and then we will open it up for questions.
First I'd like to take a minute to put our announcement today into context. Since the creation of the Big East Conference in 1979 and it's 32 year evolution, the Big East has had a record of reinvents itself. Today I'm pleased to tell you we have taken another bold and creative step in our history. We are going west.
Over the past few months we have worked to strengthen and fortify our league, spoken to many different institutions, and have been gratified at the level of interest and enthusiasm that so many schools have shown in the Big East Conference.
There was certainly a great deal of respect for our conference throughout the world of college athletics, and we appreciate the kindness and consideration that was afforded us as we talked with athletic directors and presidents across the nation. The core group of universities that have joined with us today is extraordinary. These are all quality institutions with strong academics, great facilities, engaged fans and unwavering commitment to athletics. We are proud to be associated with them.
They provide us with the solid foundation we require to move forward confidently and boldly with our conference. We have ambitious plans, and this expansion is a great stride toward reaching them.
The Big East Conference has faced challenges in the past and each time has come out stronger than before. That has happened once again. This expansion clearly moves us far beyond our origins in the northeast. With these five new members, our conference will continue to have, by far, the single largest media footprint in intercollegiate athletics, spanning literally coast to coast in football and all the major regions in between. In effect, the Big East Conference will be the first truly national college football conference.
Our creative and innovative new model will provide our fans with two distinct divisions in football, east and west, which will produce new rivalries, accommodate further expansion flexibility, and eventually set the stage for an annual football championship game.
The addition of these five new marketplaces also boosts the number of the Big East's potential TV households by more than 6% and up to almost 28 million.
Four different time zones will also allow us the potential to schedule four football games on a given Saturday back to back to back to back without any overlap. It's a powerful model and one that we believe will be unmatched by any other conference.
We are very excited by the progress we have made and are inspired by the enthusiasm of our new members. They know, as we do, that Big East membership will bring them many opportunities to enhance their institution's standing and prestige both on and off the athletic field.
Finally let me address one point in general terms. Out of respect for the many confidential conversations we have had with potential members, and consistent as I think most of you know with our ongoing practice, we will not comment on any situations with schools that are not part of our announcement today. I can only say we are continuing discussions with select additional institutions.
This call is to talk about the five schools that have joined us and what they bring to the conference. These universities are committed to the Big East and we are happy to have them and we want to focus our attention today on them and their decision to join us.
Now I'd like to introduce Judy Genshaft, the president of the University of South Florida, and the chair of both the Big East Conference board and the NCAA Division I Board of Directors.
DR. JUDY GENSHAFT: Thank you, John.
As president of the current Big East Conference institution and chair of the Big East Board of Directors, I am very happy to welcome to the conference five new member institutions today.
The Big East is a remarkable athletic conference, unique in its way from the other BCS conferences. The addition of these five new schools only adds to that singularity. Over its history the Big East has changed and adapted as needed to maintain its place and leadership in the world of intercollegiate athletics, and it has always done so with great respect and reverence for its heritage and legacy.
And so it is today, Boise State, University of Central Florida, Houston, San Diego State, and SMU are all fine schools that will enhance every aspect to the Big East.
I can attest that during its tenure in the conference USF certainly has seen its visibility and reputation in athletics rise. Our students, alumni and community have always benefited and our position as a Big East school has helped define us, build our brand, and help symbolize and support the excellence we have achieved and the progress we have made as an institution.
This is a diverse and distinguished group of universities. The five new members will add to the richness that our conference is known for. We in the Big East look forward to competing with this group, to sharing our spirit with them, and to making the great institutions of the Big East even greater, both individually and collectively.
With that, I just want to congratulate all of the institutions joining the Big East.
JOHN PAQUETTE: Now we're going to ask each president for an opening comment. First from Boise State, president Bob Kustra.
DR. ROBERT KUSTRA: Thank you. This is an exciting day. This announcement represents another significant step forward for Boise State University and our football program. We are very excited about joining the Big East and partnering with some of the finest universities across the nation. From coast to coast we've created an all American conference that represents the very best American higher education offers this nation, both in athletic competition and academic quality.
I would like to thank Commissioner John Marinatto for his tireless pursuit of the Big East goal of creating western partners and we look forward to full fledged eastern and western division play in the Big East. Thanks as well to my fellow presidents and Judy Genshaft for her leadership in bringing us to this conclusion.
We at Boise State are proud to be aboard. Thank you.
JOHN PAQUETTE: Now from UCF, president John Hitt.
DR. JOHN HITT: This is truly a great day for the University of Central Florida. On behalf of our more than 58,000 students, our staff and faculty, our energetic and loyal fans, I proudly accept membership in the Big East.
Academically and athletically, UCF and the Big East are great partners. UCF students student athletes rank near the top for academic performance. Our facilities, including bright house network stadium and UCF and Bright House Stadium and UCF Arena are among the newest and among the finest collegiate athletic venues in our country.
In the past years, eight of our athletic teams have been nationally ranked, including football, baseball, and men's basketball. Our women's soccer team recently advanced to the Elite 8. Joining the Big East provides opportunities for our student athletes in all sports to compete on the largest national stage. We are honored to join the new Big East and look forward to adding to the conference's tradition of academic and athletic success.
Our thanks go to Commissioner Marinatto, President Genshaft and our fellow university presidents for the professionalism, dedication and enthusiasm that have led us to this fine day. Thanks so much.
JOHN PAQUETTE: Now from Houston, president Renu Khator.
DR. RENU KHATOR: Thank you very much. On behalf of the university's Board of Regents, our faculty, staff, students and alumni, I'm honored and very pleased to accept the invitation to be a member of the Big East family. Our vision is to be a nationally competitive university in every field: research, student success and athletics. This affiliation gives us an opportunity to play in a nationally competitive environment and to show our talents on a national stage. This is a game changer for us and I know everybody here is very excited.
The Big East is a great conference, nationally competitive, and academically strong. These are the finest universities, with great leadership, super talent. It is truly our privilege to join the Big East.
I, too, join my fellow presidents in thanking Commissioner Marinatto for his extreme diligence, hard work, his leadership, and of course I am very grateful to Judy Genshaft. To me it feel it is like coming back home. I value it very much. Thank you very much. We want to be part of Big East, we'll add value to it and draw value from it. Thank you.
JOHN PAQUETTE: From San Diego State, president Elliot Hirshman.
DR. ELLIOT HIRSHMAN: Good afternoon. I want to begin by thanking John and Judy for their gracious comments and their welcome throughout the process. I also want to thank all of my colleagues for their boldness and their collaborative spirit.
San Diego State University is an institution that is on the rise athletically and academically. We're thrilled to join the Big East and have the opportunity to compete at the highest level.
On behalf of all of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and supporters, we're honored to join a conference that has some of the finest universities in the country.
Most importantly we're looking forward to extraordinary competition. We can't wait for 2013. Bring it on. Thank you.
JOHN PAQUETTE: From SMU, president Gerald Turner.
DR. R. GERALD TURNER: I want to join my colleagues in thanking John Marinatto and his staff, of course President Genshaft, for the encouragement and support that she's provided to each of us.
The City of Dallas will be delighted to welcome all of the Big East members. We feel it's an honor to be a part of the Big East Conference. With the University of Houston, we can truly say that the Big East Conference has spread to the state of Texas.
We look forward to being able to participate in the Big East, both for football and other sports, and know that basketball and the other sports within the conference will bring great competition to Dallas. We look forward to visiting our sister institution campuses during this competition.
We look forward to the participation starting in '13 and believe that we will benefit greatly from being in the Big East and that the Big East will benefit from SMU's participation also.
So we look forward to welcoming all of the institutions to Dallas starting in '13.
JOHN PAQUETTE: Now we're going to open it up to questions from the media.
Q. Mr. Commissioner, now that you have a situation where you have representatives in every time zone in the United States, how do you think this will help you as you go forward to develop your new television contract this coming year?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: That's something obviously that we've discussed a lot over the course of the past several months as we've engaged at least half a dozen media consultants in this process.
With regard to television, this new footprint as I mentioned is the largest footprint in all of college sports and will reinforce the Big East national brand. It was important for us to ensure we had a strong presence in the west, and we've achieved that, representing all four time zones under our umbrella.
Television rights are obviously a very important factor in our overall goals and expansion. We believe, obviously, that the appropriate levels of revenue derived from television is very important to our respective members.
As we discussed the idea of football specifically with our consultants, we've envisioned the premise that we could theoretically on any given Saturday have four kickoffs that don't compete with each other. We think, as I mentioned earlier, that's a very powerful model as we move forward in our upcoming TV negotiations, initially with ESPN eight months from now, because it provides something that no other conference in the country can represent. So we're excited about that prospect.
We've been in the past on the cutting edge of doing things that no one has ever done before and we believe that this is just another example of what will follow once we've established the premise.
Q. Will the participants in basketball help out in playing San Diego State and Boise State, some of the schools that are coming in as football only?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: Yes. We've made a commitment to facilitate discussions, the non conference games within our current membership, our new schools, and the two football schools joining us from the west.
Q. John, I know you've been steadfast on saying that these schools that are departing are going to be held (indiscernible) 2014. Now that you have some new teams in, has there been discussions not amongst the schools that have been leaving but the new members about possibly working out a situation where not only could those schools leave early but the new schools could come sooner, where maybe this could all get done by 2012? Is that even a possibility at this point?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: We have not had those discussions. The additions that we're making today have no impact whatsoever in regard to our commitment and our belief that our schools that are leaving would fulfill the 27 month requirement clause that's currently in our bylaws.
Q. You referred to the 27 month requirement to be a member. Are the new members held to that from this point going forward? How binding is this invitation in the wake of TCU saying they would be invited to the Big East, then not even joining the Big East before jumping to the Big 12?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: In answer to your first question, the schools that are actually in the conference have to adhere to the existing bylaws. So all of our schools, beginning on the July 1st date of their entry, the year 2013, would be held to the same standards that our current schools are held to.
The example of TCU is a distinction between our current schools who are ongoing and playing under the auspices of the league because their agreement did not require the 27 month notice because they did not yet fall under the umbrella of the conference bylaws.
Q. So any of these new schools that you're inviting, any of the five schools, could they conceivably opt out of this agreement to join before 2013 and never even participate in the Big East Conference without penalty?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: No. There are penalties built into our agreements. Obviously, like the TCU situation, they don't fall under the 27 month provision, which I think was your original question.
Q. What penalties would exist?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: They would be financial penalties.
Q. Can you disclose those?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: I cannot.
Q. San Diego State and Boise State are football only members. Whose choice was that? Was that the Big East or the schools?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: I think that was a mutual choice because of the distances involved, the effect it would have on the non football sports.
Football is a very unique sport, is treated very differently than the others.
DR. ELLIOT HIRSHMAN: We agree. It was a mutual agreement for that.
Q. John, why are you so determined to have a season in 2013 of sort of a hodgepodge of schools with the ones coming in, the ones that you say will not be allowed to leave in West Virginia, Pitt and Syracuse, for this one hangover season, and in the same way both schools have said that they're not necessarily included anymore on decisions that the Big East makes, even emails from the compliance department? They've somewhat been frozen out, but yet you're determined to keep them to the 27 months and have this one season in 2013 where there's schools leaving and schools coming in. Why are you so determined to do that?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: I think it's a simple matter of respecting our bylaws. The schools that were in the conference were part of the writing of the bylaws. The bylaws are the bylaws are the bylaws. They represent the agreements between the conference schools. I think there's an understanding amongst all of our schools that an early departure and a violation of those bylaws would do damage to the schools that are remaining. As a result, two of our schools have indicated that they respect that process and they understand it.
Q. Actually earlier today Daryl Gross, from Syracuse, said he would expect the Big East would want Syracuse to move on. Is Daryl wrong in his assumption?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: I don't know. I got a text from Daryl a little while ago saying, Cheers, congratulations. I haven't had a conversation with Daryl in regard to that.
Q. The only reference you made to basketball on this agreement is that some would play, Boise and San Diego State. How would you determine which schools go out west and what does using Houston, SMU and Central Florida, replacing Pitt, West Virginia and Syracuse? Can you address replacing those three in the primary sport of basketball.
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: The three new schools we're bringing in to play basketball have strong commitments to the sport. They have accomplished head coaches, good facilities, located in major media markets. As you know in following the league over the years, our schools, as we've expanded throughout time, have not necessarily come with great basketball programs. When Pittsburgh joined the league back in the early '80s, their program wasn't what it is today. When Miami joined the program, it certainly wasn't what it was when they left the league. We've had a history of elevating the levels of the programs that left the league because of the assets that we offer and provide.
So I don't expect that to be any different than it has been in the past for the schools that will be joining us and playing the sport of basketball.
Q. How are you going to determine who goes west?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: Well, as I said earlier, we're going to facilitate discussions between our current member schools and the schools we're talking about. We haven't gotten into the details of all of that.
Q. Rotation? You have no idea yet?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: We haven't gotten into the details of all of that.
Q. John, just to clarify, in regards to playing in a west division and an east division, are you saying that decision hasn't been made, or was that in reference to what basketball teams would play a non conference schedule, play Boise and San Diego State?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: With regard to football, what the NCAA bylaw prescribes is that when you go to two divisions, you play everybody in your division, then you can cross over to play the other games to reach whatever number you want.
So in our matrix, what we're looking at specifically is two six team divisions, you play everybody once for five, then you cross over for three others. We will have all of our athletic directors included in the room in order to determine what is the best model. But that's the general model that we've discussed as we've unfolded this plan that we've shared with each of the schools that are on the call today as well as our ongoing members.
Q. Is there a sense that with the BCS coming up in 2013 for the 2014 season, the talk that maybe automatic qualifiers will go away and BCS will just pick a No. 1 and No. 2 to play, is there a sense that there's some finality to bringing these teams in or do you feel we might be revisiting the landscape of conferences again in a few more years if the BCS does do away with automatic qualifiers?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: Well, it was our intent and our goal when we started this to build the best conference that we could build for the long term. Obviously part of that was bringing in schools that would help us on the football side in order to enhance our situation.
I think the additions that we've announced today do that for us and I envision that what we're building is for the long term and certainly not something we've designed for a short term scenario.
Q. President Genshaft, there's been a belief for a long time that you didn't want UCF in the Big East, that you didn't want to play UCF. Can you talk about your feelings about UCF past and present.
DR. JUDY GENSHAFT: I'm very pleased to welcome UCF and John Hitt and all the athletic teams into our conference. I made the motion that they be entered into the league.
Q. Were there hard feelings in the past? Would you say those hard feelings have been alleviated now?
DR. JUDY GENSHAFT: I am very pleased to have my colleague from Florida in the league and welcome John Hitt and the University of Central Florida.
Q. Will you appeal to the NCAA to play a championship game with 10, if that's the number you have moving forward? When will you make a decision on whether or not to get to 12?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: We haven't had that discussion in regard to 10. It's our plan to get to 12. That's what we're currently working on. I think in the past, over the last seven, eight years, we and others have had the discussion about amending the NCAA legislation to allow for a 10 school conference. We have a 10 school conference that has a championship game. We haven't, in all honesty, had that discussion, though we plan to at this point. Our plan is to get to 12 football playing members.
Q. When did Boise State get on your radar? When did you get the idea of creating a western division? Without Boise State, would that have been a possible idea?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: We actually started talking about this literally over a year ago when we invited TCU to join the league. That was along the lines of going out of our comfort zone and out of our footprint. It was when TCU got into the league that we literally started having discussions with regard to another Houston school and possibly expanding our footprint beyond that.
The discussions got facilitated as a result of the discussions that happened over the last several months, but it's something we contemplated and discussed literally for over a year.
Q. John, the league obviously was founded on basketball and has been branded often as a basketball league. These decisions are obviously football based. Was there any discomfort within the league offices about the fact that this is a departure from the basketball side of the league's foundation?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: No, not at all. When I opened up the call today, I talked about the fact that this league over its 32 year evolution has really reinvented itself a number of times. When we went through this process we talked about that in detail with all of our schools.
You're right, the genesis of this league created in 1979 was based on the fact that Dave Gavitt, its original founder, wanted to create an entity that would keep northeast talent in the northeast. In 1990, Mike Tranghese in his first year reinvented the league and created the football conference. Throughout the '90s, the Big East Conference was a founding member of the Bowl Coalition, the Bowl Alliance, and then the BCS.
We expanded our football presence throughout that time with the addition of a number of schools. Once again in 2003 we reinvented ourselves again, and literally at that time became the largest Division I conference in the country by growing to 16, which at the time everyone thought would never work and was unwielding. We obviously proved over that time since then that it did work.
This is just another step in our evolution as we reinvent ourselves for the fourth time in the 32 years by doing something very bold, very unique, that we think will add to the future stability of our conference and create greater flexibility as we move forward.
Q. A lot of people have asked the question, Why not just go strictly to basketball since that's where the roots are? Is that not feasible in this day and age?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: I don't think that we even had that conversation with our membership when we started talking about what it is we wanted to do, literally, as I said earlier, 13 months ago. I think the football and basketball playing member schools recognize on the basketball side that our football schools bring a lot to the table in basketball. As you know, we call them football schools, but they also play a very high brand of basketball.
As we develop this new model, as I mentioned earlier, it's our full expectation that the schools coming into the league's programs in basketball will be elevated to the same level that the other programs have been when they joined the league over the evolution of the conference.
Q. John, if and when you get to 12 teams, you mentioned possibly having a championship game in New York City. Is that still your first choice or would you maybe want to try to do what the PAC 12 did with the top team hosting the game?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: When we spoke about that, I think it was at our media day back in August. I was sharing my own personal view in regards to what I would like to see happen at the time in regard to hosting a championship game and doing it possibly at Yankee Stadium in New York City, trying to create the same buzz we have with our men's basketball championship at Madison Square Garden.
I think the decision will be made ultimately by our 12 athletic directors and approved by our 12 presidents when we get to that point. We might follow the Big 12 model, we might follow the scenario I mentioned by doing it in New York, we might do something totally different and cutting edge as well. I think that's a decision the group will make and it will be approved by our board.
Q. Renu, can you give me your thoughts on how travel specifically for the non football sports will affect you?
DR. RENU KHATOR: We are part of a very exciting conference year. Right now we travel as part of Conference USA. With all we have to gain and we have to offer, I think we can manage the travel with no problem.
Q. Commissioner Marinatto, when you targeted expansion, you mentioned it would be possible if certain teams were added the exit fee would go to $10 million. Have those teams been added? If not, is that still the intention?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: You're correct. The bylaws as they were rewritten back on October 27th did call for an increase in the withdrawal fee with the addition of certain schools, and that has not yet happened.
I think what our intention is as we move forward is to continue our expansion efforts. But specific to the question of future withdrawals, as we approach September of 2012 and enter into our discussions in regard to our new television contracts, as that process unfolds and concludes, I think that our membership as a whole will want to revisit that question. That will ultimately in two years probably be a question that the board will address once again.
Q. John, any discussion about changing the name of the conference because of the geography? So I'm clear, you're talking about two divisions but you haven't decided which schools are in which division?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: No to your first question, yes to your second question. We have not contemplated changing the name of the Big East Conference. If a conference called the Big Ten can have 12 schools, a conference called the Big East can have schools that are not necessarily in the east.
Yes to your second question. We have not sat down, and I think the question of who is in which division will similarly be a decision made by all of our athletic directors and approved by our presidents once we have our expansion efforts completed.
Q. John, how do you feel sharing a conference with USF?
DR. JOHN HITT: I think it is a great opportunity for us. I see a super rivalry. I think we could sell out each stadium in turn. We look forward to having a really fierce rivalry on the field and on the court, but a respectful one among the fans in the stands.
We think this could be a tremendous thing for both institutions and for the Big East.
Q. With regard to the basketball side of things in 2013/14, it sounds like there could be as many as 18 or 19 basketball teams. How would a regular season and a post season schedule look? Would they all play each other once and what would the tournament look like?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: I think if that is the case, that would probably be a model that we would employ where everybody would play each other once. But we haven't gotten into the specifics of that. I'm just looking at the numbers as you've outlined them and that would make sense. We haven't had any discussions in regard to what the tournament might look like under that scenario. That would be another discussion I'm sure that would have to follow.
Q. But if possible, you could have an 18 team or 19 team Big East tournament?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: Again, we haven't had any of those discussions at this point. We have a 16 team tournament right now. Anything is possible.
Q. Commissioner, you mentioned the addition of new rivalries with the new teams. I wanted to ask you what you think USF and UCF does to add a new rivalry?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: When we started talking about creating value for our conference, what we needed to do in order to enhance our position as we approach our upcoming television negotiations, one of the people brought into the room who helped us with these discussions was Paul Tagliabue. Paul kept talking about how rivalries drive value. Specific to the question that you've asked, there are certain rivalries that will enhance value just because of the nature of the schools. The one you're talking specifically about with regard to the two Florida schools is I think one that is going to help us moving forward drive significant value in our upcoming media negotiations.
It's a natural. I think it's a rivalry now. Being under the auspices of the conference will not only enhance it with regard to the two sports of football and basketball, but obviously all the other sports, as well.
Q. President Kustra, your team did not make the BCS this year. It was bypassed for the Sugar by two teams ranked lower than yours. Can you describe how the BCS will help you in that regard and did that overcome any misgivings you might have about the geography of the whole thing or even the stability of the Big East?
DR. ROBERT KUSTRA: Certainly we look forward to joining a conference with automatic qualifying status. That clearly was one of the reasons that drove us toward this decision.
We're also excited, of course, about the access and the exposure that Boise State University will get in 2013 on ESPN and even before then of course there will be an opportunity to renegotiate that contract.
So there's no question that we've been frustrated over recent years as to how the BCS has handled those who were not automatic qualifiers. But the time has come for us to deal with what we can control and not worry about the rest. I think it's fair to say that that's the reason why I'm on this teleconference today.
Q. You saw that TCU basically leveraged the Big East bid into a bid what they might regard as a more stable Big 12. What is to keep you from joining a PAC 14 or helping the Big 12 get back to 12?
DR. ROBERT KUSTRA: We've made the commitment to the Big East. I particularly like the idea of introducing Boise State University's brand of football east of the Mississippi and across this nation. I think John Marinatto made an excellent point when he talked about the fact that this is indeed a conference, the only conference in America, in four time zones and a coast to coast conference. That is appealing to us. That is just as appealing to us as the opportunities we may have had in the past. Certainly it's the reason why we're in the conference now and where we intend to stay.
Q. John, back to the football issue for a minute. If Syracuse and Pitt and West Virginia are to stay in the conference through the 2013 season, that would make a 13 team league at least for that year. How would you cope with that? Have you given any thought to trying to have a championship game that season?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: To be honest with you, over the course of the last two months, I've been so engrossed in dealing with the issues that we're addressing today that I haven't contemplated a 13 team schedule for that year specifically.
I know that the SEC has talked about that. I guess if the SEC can figure out a way to do it next year, we can certainly figure out a way to do it when we need to.
Again, in all honesty, given what we've been doing over the last couple of months, I have not contemplated the question about a 13 team championship game scenario either.
Q. Commissioner, you talked about going to a 12 team model as a goal. Has there been any discussion about moving to 14 or 16 teams as other conferences are doing? What is going on with the situation with Villanova? Is that a dead conversation or is there still movement there?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: In regard to the first part of your question, we have talked about the idea of going beyond 12 and creating a model that includes additional members. We haven't executed that. Our board basically has told us to execute the plan that they approved at our annual meeting on November 1st, and at the appropriate time, whenever that is, we can certainly engage in discussions in regard to expanding beyond that.
I think once we get our footing established, we can visit the question of expansion beyond that and also revisit the conversation to Villanova's potential of becoming a football member of the conference as well.
Q. John, you talk about the bylaws are the bylaws. Is there any room for negotiation for an early exit or is it a waste of time for their ADs to pick up the phone and talk about it?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: As I said, we've been too engrossed in working to get to the point where we are today honestly that we haven't had those discussions.
My beginning premise and my current premise is that the bylaws were written as they were written for a specific reason. I think certainly Pittsburgh understands that of all of our schools because they were intimately involved in the writing of those bylaws.
The premise of the specific issue in regard to the 27 months goes back to what we went through back in 2003 and the potential damage that someone simply deciding to exit at their own pace would do to the ongoing schools that are staying in the conference.
As I said, I think Pittsburgh certainly understands that and respects that. Syracuse certainly understands and respects that. They were both obviously involved in that discussion back in '03, had experiences with us back then.
Q. How would you react if they would come to you in negotiation mode?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: In deference to those schools, out of respect to those two schools, they've basically come out on their own and said that they've determined that they're going to respect our bylaws. We haven't had that discussion. I think they understand the reasons that they were put in place. They were certainly there and played a major part in it.
I think what people don't understand is the point that I've made. They do. I'm not saying they don't. But generally people don't understand the premise that they were put in place because of the damage the departure would cause the other members of the conference that are ongoing. There's a professional, moral, legal issue there that I think goes unnoticed by a lot of people.
Q. Commissioner, how confident are you now with the new move and new teams of keeping your BCS automatic bid?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: Well, as I said earlier, part of our objectives in expansion was to create the best conference we could both on the football side as well as other sports. We recognize obviously the departure of the schools leaving the conference affected us. But we always felt confident that if we made the right moves, we would keep our BCS AQ status and we've done that.
Q. Commissioner, I'm not sure what your status is regarding your television negotiations. Does it complicate matters for you? I believe your contract is up after 2012 with ESPN. Does it complicate matters you'll be having a rotating cast of schools for the first year of your new contract? Will you try to do some sort of third tier network as well?
COMMISSIONER JOHN MARINATTO: I'll generally answer your question and then specifically answer it.
Every contract that most conferences have have what we call a composition clause in them. The composition clause refers to the schools that are under the umbrella of the conference and they allow for additions and subtractions. So obviously with the addition of schools and the subtraction of schools in any particular year, both parties have a right to sit down and negotiate what the value of those schools is to the networks.
In regard to the future, when I talk about 2012, that's not the end of our current agreement. 2012 is what we call the beginning of the FNFR period. ESPN and CBS both have an FNFR clause with the Big East Conference, similar to what they have with all the other major conferences. There's an exclusive period of time, which occurs well before the end of the agreement, when the two parties get together and have an exclusive negotiation in order to extend that contract beyond the expiration date.
So beginning in September of 2012, the Big East will have the opportunity to sit down with its two partners ESPN and CBS to begin discussions for a 60 day period during which we would enter into exclusive negotiations only with those two partners. If we are unable to reach an agreement after those 60 days are concluded, then we have the ability, if we so choose, to enter into discussions with other people that we do not currently have contractual agreements with.
Q. Your thoughts on the significance to those negotiations?
When Dave Gavitt created the conference back in 1979, he literally built it around media markets. I think that's been something we've been very conscious of as we move forward in this process with the new schools we've talked to as well. It's very important obviously from a TV perspective. As I said earlier, the Big East Conference represents by far, by far, more television households, more pay television households, more people in the country literally than any other conference in the country.
JOHN PAQUETTE: Thank you, everyone. We thank the presidents of our new institutions and all of you for participating in our teleconference. Have a good day.
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