Big East schools make commitment, will recruit replacements
TAMPA - Big East commissioner John Marinatto said late Tuesday the conference's remaining schools have made a commitment to stick together and announced plans to aggressively recruit replacements for outgoing Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Marinatto spoke in New York after a meeting with officials from the league's football schools, including the University of South Florida. And it came shortly before the Pac-12 said it will not expand to 16 teams, adding to the Big East's uncertain future. Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech were considering a move from the Big 12 to the Pac-12. The Pac-12 decision could have a direct effect on the Big East, which would need to add schools to remain BCS eligible. Among the scenarios: Big East holdovers could have joined the remaining Big 12 schools to form a new conference. The Big East's future was brought into doubt when Pitt and Syracuse announced Sunday they are moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014.Marinatto emerged from Tuesday's three-hour meeting and said league members "pledged to each other that they are committed to move forward together." "We are committed as a conference to recruit top-level, BCS-caliber institutions with strong athletic and academic histories and traditions," he told reporters. "We have been approached by a number of such institutions and remain committed to pursue all options to make the Big East Conference stronger, as we have been in both basketball and football in our history." Marinatto said all the league's members -- including Notre Dame and the seven other non-football members -- are in the process of finding replacement schools. He would not say which schools have been in contact with the league, but said member representatives at Tuesday night's meeting "talked about a number of options and various scenarios." "I can't get into the particulars about which schools and which options that we're going to ultimately end up with because we don't know, quite frankly, right now," he said. The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted a source saying there has been "mutual interest" between the Big East and Temple, "maybe more intense recently." The paper also quoted a source who said Villanova would consider playing football in the Big East "if asked." Marinatto said there is timeline set up by league bylaws that must be followed during its pursuit of new members. Marinatto also said the league will enforce the 27-month notice agreement in its bylaws and not allow Syracuse and Pitt to leave until the 2014-15 academic year. He also said he expects TCU to join the league in 2012, as previously agreed upon. Marinatto said the remaining Big East institutions expressed "genuine disappointment" about Syracuse and Pitt's decision. "All of the schools that are with us today feel very hurt, quite frankly," he said.