John Marinatto, Big East Commissioner, Discusses Expansion
"Several schools have indeed reached out to me," said Marinatto, who would not identify which schools have contacted him in the past couple of days.
In an exclusive interview with FanHouse Wednesday night at Raymond James Stadium during the Rutgers-South Florida game, Marinatto would not comment on any potential future members, but did provide some insight on the league's decision to expand.
Marinatto stressed the league has not had any formal contact with any institutions and has not established a time line. While he also would not disclose the league's process for notifying potential member schools or their conferences, he said "we'll do things the right way."
The most likely candidates, sources told FanHouse, to join the Big East as football members include Villanova, TCU, Central Florida and Temple. Two months ago, Villanova athletic director Vince Nicastro told the Philadelphia Daily News the Wildcats have an offer to join the Big East in football.
"Villanova has been obviously a member of the conference for 30 years," Marinatto told FanHouse. "We've encouraged them for a number of years going back to 1997 to do whatever they feel is in their best interest. I think they're in the process of evaluating that question and if they evaluate it in the affirmative, we'll obviously have a conversation about membership."
Marinatto said the league's announcement of getting to 10 football members is "really not an exercise about numbers. Rather, it's one of several affirmative and strategic actions our membership considered and approved at its annual CEO meeting this week to strengthen the quality and security of what is already one of the best conferences in the country," he said.
While Villanova's addition as a football member would not increase the league's basketball membership, Marinatto would not disclose whether any other football schools would be added as full members or football-only members.
If the 10-member Big East uses the same league scheduling model as the current Pac-10 and the future Big 12 (with 10 members) conferences, the Big East likely would also play nine league games. However, Marinatto said it was "premature" to address future football scheduling.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," he said.
One factor that could play a huge role in the league's expansion plans are its current and future television markets. The Big East's current TV contract with ESPN/ABC expires after the 2013 football season and the 2012-13 basketball season.
If the Big East added new members before the current TV contracts expire, the league could seek to renegotiate.
"Membership -- quality membership and quality inventory -- drives value," Marinatto said. "We're certainly cognizant of the value that expansion and quality inventory would bring to a television partner."
Marinatto also indicated there has been "no discussion" about forcing out any existing members to make room for any additional schools.
Marinatto added that he was somewhat surprised by the amount of attention the Big East's expansion announcement received.
"I thought people would be more focused on the election results," he said. "I thought that would be what everyone would be talking about tonight (Wednesday night), not Big East expansion."
Marinatto also joked that he has learned something from all the conference expansion turmoil last summer.
"I've learned from Rudyard Kipling's poem: 'while everyone else around you seems to be losing their mind, keep your head straight.' And a clear head."
Brett McMurphy is a national college football writer for FanHouse. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or please follow at Twitter.com/BrettmcmurphY