Memphis, a current Conference USA member and college basketball power, will be introduced as the newest member of Big East Wednesday.
The Big East has scheduled a noon teleconference to formally introduce the Tigers, who will be joining the league in all sports July 1, 2013.
Conference USA members UCF, SMU and Houston accepted all sports invitations to the Big East, while Mountain West Conference members Boise State and San Diego State accepted football-only invitations in December. The five teams also are slated to formally make the move to the Big East in 2013.
Independent Navy announced in January it would join the Big East in football only starting in 2015, giving the academy time to close out its television and game contractual obligations.
After the departure of West Virginia, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and TCU, the Big East will retain five current members -- Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Rutgers and USF. If the new members include Memphis, the Big East will have 12 football-playing members in 2015.
When the conference announced its expansion plans following the defections of Syracuse, Pittsburgh and TCU, Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said the league would explore adding at least 12 football-playing members. He said the conference had developed a model that could accommodate 14 or more members.
The Big East previously pursued adding Mountain West member Air Force and independent BYU, but negotiations with the two schools broke down and they opted not to join the league. It is still possible for negotiations to resume, but it appears unlikely they would be joining the Big East in the near future.
Mid-American Conference member Temple, which previously was a Big East member but was kicked out of the league for poor overall performance, was considered the likely to be invited back into the Big East. However, Big East member Villanova vocally opposed giving rival Temple a major advantage by inviting the Owls back into the Big East.
In addition to the football members, the Big East is slated to retain 13 schools that compete in all sports except football. Men's basketball is their marquee sport. In 2013, the Big East basketball playing members would include Cincinnati, Connecticut, DePaul, Georgetown, Houston, Louisville, Marquette, Notre Dame, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's, Seton Hall, SMU, UCF, USF and Villanova.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino was among the basketball leaders who lobbied for a basketball power to be among the final expansion candidates to help offset the loss of strong programs Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia. Memphis would help fill that void. The Tigers' run to the Final Four under former Coach John Calipari was vacated, but Memphis remains one of the strongest teams in Conference USA and continues to be successful battling powerful Big East basketball programs on the recruiting trail and on the court during nonconference play.
It remains unclear when exactly West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Syracuse will be leaving the Big East. West Virginia and the Big 12 continue to insist the Mountaineers will be joining the Big 12 for the 2012 season. West Virginia and the Big East have filed competing lawsuits, with the Big East asking courts to enforce the league's bylaws and bar the Mountaineers from competing in another conference until 2014. West Virginia, on the other hand, is fighting to leave immediately and has the Big 12's support because Missouri has already leave to the Southeastern Conference, leaving the Big 12 short a team it needs to fulfill its television contract obligations. If West Virginia manages to leave early, Pitt and Syracuse will likely pursue the right to join the Atlantic Coast Conference early as well.
The Big East is expected to promote its new members, including UCF, during the upcoming Big East basketball tournament in March at Madison Square Garden.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-650-6353. Read Iliana Limón's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/knightsnotepad.
Big East expansion continues, Memphis to be introduced as new member Wednesday
Tigers would join UCF, Houston and SMU jumping from Conference USA to the Big East in 2013
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