The Big East Conference is expanding west with the announcement of five schools joining the conference in the fall of 2013. The University of Houston, University of Central Florida and Southern Methodist University will become all-sport members of the conference while Boise State and San Diego State will be football only members.
“Over the last 32 years, the Big East Conference has constantly evolved along with the landscape of college athletics,” Big East Commissioner John Marinatto said in a teleconference. “The inclusion of these five great universities, which bring a unique blend of premiere 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.”
The addition of these schools comes as a result of Pittsburgh and Syracuse announcing that they will join the ACC and West Virginia accepting a bid to join the Big-12 Conference.
With the schools replacing the departing members, the conference will be able to maintain a 16 school basketball conference while also increasing football membership to 12 schools.
“They are not going to replace Pittsburgh, Syracuse, or West Virginia for basketball,” Seton Hall Athletic Director Patrick Lyons said. “But they have a good history and good programs that will only get better by joining the Big East.”
One thing that the new schools will bring to the Big East is new media and recruiting markets for the schools that are remaining in the conference. With Houston and Dallas-based SMU coming to the Big East, the conference now has schools in seven of the top-ten media markets in the United States.
“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,” Marinatto said. Our membership makeup is now reflective of that.”
In terms of geography, the newly added schools might not fit the “East” part of the Big East, but that was not the most important thing being looked at when the selected schools were chosen.
“You’re looking for fit,” Lyons said. “You’re looking for what’s going to help us grow and solidify our spot as the premier basketball and football conference.”
With the new schools being added at the beginning of the 2013-14 academic year and the current Big East by-laws requiring a 27-month waiting period before officially leaving the conference, the 2013-14 athletic year could see an inflated conference. As of right now, 19 schools would be a part of the Big East Conference during the basketball season.
For Seton Hall, there is not much basketball history with the schools joining the conference. The Pirates have only played Houston once, resulting in an 87-85 overtime victory in 1981. The Hall has never faced SMU or UCF on the basketball court.
Despite the new schools coming from mid-major conferences, Lyons sees the additions keeping the Big East as a top conference nationally.
“The moves continue to position us in the greatest conference in the country, he said.”
Stephen Valenti can be reached at email@example.com.