The presidents of the 14 remaining Big East schools and the president of TCU convened at 10:00 this morning to discuss the state of their conference. The meeting lasted until a little after 3:30 p.m. We reported earlier what we expected to be discussed according to sources.
There were initially reports on message boards that West Virginia's president left the meeting early — this was apparently not the case.
After the meeting broke up, John Marinatto made the following statements:
- "The presidents voted unanimously to authorize the commissioner to aggressively pursue discussions with a select number of institutions that have indicated a strong interest in joining the Big East Conference."
- "The presidents are also actively considering changes to the conference's governing bylaws to further solidify the membership."
- Commissioner Marinatto said that UConn president Herbst was "terrific in the meeting, promised to do anything she can to help strengthen the Big East."
- They didn't name any target schools, but noted that they will be football-playing members.
- The sevices academies fit academic and athletic profile of the conference. That profile was described as "high academic standards and strong athletic performance."
- TCU Chancellor Victor J. Boschini Jr. "had never wavered" on Big East membership and was "very positive" during the meeting.
- Marinatto said he felt better about the conference's future than before the meeting.
Instant Analysis: No change in leadership, no financial commitment to the league and no solid actions taken on expansion. It doesn't seem like there is much to really report at this point in time, so we might as well randomly generate the next rumor (h/t FriarBlog).
Though Marinatto expressed confidence, I wouldn't consider the league in a much better position than it was a week or two ago. "Considering" a change in the bylaws is not the same as actually changing them, it shows a non-committal attitude from the members, and perhaps an expectation on the part of others that invitations to other conferences will be coming (and a desire to keep those options open until they do).
Who are the schools that have indicated a strong interest in joining the Big East Conference? Surely ECU is strongly interested after their very-public application to the conference. Navy and Air Force are possibly two others. Is Villanova included in that group? We may not find out for a while.
Our source said earlier that this meeting sounded like a "waste of time," and since nothing solid has really seemed to come of it, maybe it was.
(Update 7:30p) Andy Katz reports that "a number of schools were discussed, including Navy, Army, Air Force, Temple, Central Florida and a new name in SMU." All of which would reportedly join the conference as full members if invited, except the service academies.
(Update 9:35p) The Philadelphia Inquirer's Mike Jensen tweeted, "Adding Temple, allowing Villanova to move up in football, remain viable Big East options after presidents' meeting."
(Update 10/3 - 11:39a) This morning ZagsBlog.com posted a comment from Rick Pitino on expansion. Pitino has really wanted Memphis to join the Big East for basketball, because it has been a strong program and a former rivalry for his Cardinals. He does not believe they will be an option, however:
"Memphis, it’s a shame because their football program is so down right now," Pitino told SNY.tv last week in an exclusive interview at Hudson Catholic High School. "I don’t know why it’s down, but it is down and that’s what probably’s taking away from it."
Memphis wants desperately to be in a BCS conference, but their dreadful football performance puts them in no-better position than Villanova (and very possibly a worse position). Their athletic director, R.C. Johnson, previously was the AD at Temple during their failed tenure as a football-only member of the Big East.